More IoT with Compute Module 3 and Ubuntu Core OS

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, announced recently that its IoT OS, Ubuntu Core, is available on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 – the general-purpose compute product from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This OS, the smallest Ubuntu ever, is the perfect host operating system for IoT devices and large-scale cloud container deployments. Actually, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3), is a micro-version of the Raspberry Pi 3. With its new features, it provides a simple and affordable single board computer.

In fact, this module is based on the Raspberry Pi 3 hardware, providing twice the RAM and roughly 10x the CPU performance of the original Module, launched in 2014. Even though CM3 is replacing the original Compute Module, but CM1 is still compatible with the new Compute Module IO Board V3, and remains available for sale.

CM3 takes care of the complexity of routing out the pins, the high speed RAM interface and core power supply. Also, it allows a simple carrier board to provide what is necessary for external interfaces and form factor. The module uses a standard DDR2 SODIMM form factor, sockets by several manufacturers, are easily available, and are inexpensive.

Software Defined Everything?

As a vision for Canonical, The CM3 with Ubuntu Core allows developers to create new IoT products and devices. As well as offering a potentially smaller and more efficient replacement for some devices that contain larger Raspberry Pi boards.

“Gaining official support for Ubuntu Core is highly significant for our Compute Module 3. It opens up a huge community of developers keen to leverage Ubuntu’s particular advantages in the IoT world; its resource-efficient footprint, versatility, and industry leading security benefits,” says Eben Upton, CEO at Raspberry Pi.

Finally, more comprehensive information on the Compute Modules is available in the this hardware documentation, and includes a datasheet and schematics. In addition, you can check this step-by-step tutorial to install Core OS on your Compute Module 3 by Ubuntu Developer.

Turn Your iPad Into A Second Screen with Luna

It is possible now to turn your iPad into a second display using Luna Display! Luna Display is a hardware solution that extends your Mac desktop to your iPad, creating a wireless second monitor maintaining high resolution.

In fact, Luna is one of Astro HQ products, a startup working on delivering tools for designers and animation creators. It is originally  founded by two ex-Apple engineers, a reason to understand the loyalty for Apple products!

With no complicated settings, you can set up Luna in seconds using your already available Wi-Fi. This feature is Powered by Astro HQ LIQUID technology. Anyway if Wi-Fi is not available, USB can be the alternative.

 LIQUID technology provides:

  • Uncompromised image quality
  • Lightning fast speeds
  • Lag-free performance at 60 frames per second
  • GPU acceleration, so your Mac stays fast and optimized
  • Hand optimized ARM assembly to maximize battery life
  • Velocity Control, which analyzes network conditions dozens of times per second

System Requirements

Works with any modern Mac – Luna requires a Mac running macOS 10.10, Yosemite (or later). Recommended configurations: MacBook Air (2012 and later), MacBook Pro (2012 and later), Mac mini (2012 and later), iMac (2012 and later), Mac Pro (Late 2013).

Works with any modern iPad – Luna requires an iPad running iOS 9.1 (or later): iPad 2 (or later), any iPad Mini and any iPad Pro.

 

You can perfectly use Luna Display with the software Astropad, a software that allows you to draw directly into your Mac apps using your iPad and it works over wifi or USB.

“Luna extends both Astropad Standard and Astropad Studio to provide the ultimate drawing experience with the best second screen solution for iPad. If you are a creative professional, Luna has been designed with you in mind.”
Unlike other solutions, Luna uses the raw power of your graphics card, and harnesses it in order to allow you have the full potential of graphics acceleration. Check this video about the technology used in Luna Display, battery use and energy.

To know more about Luna, you can check the Kickstarter campaign they launched earlier.
Fortunately, the 1,450% funded campaign is still running and still has 39 days to go. You can pre-order your Luna Display gadget for 65$, or the Artist bundle for $99, including 1 Luna Display and 1 year Astropad Studio.

For more information and details, you can check the official website of Astropad and Astro HQ. Also, take a look at the campaign video here.

Graphene Electronic Circuits with Atomic Precision

Essential electronic components, such as diodes and tunnel barriers, can be incorporated in single graphene wires (nanoribbons) with atomic precision. The result is a working electronic device that could be used in Graphene-based electronic switches with extremely fast operational speeds. Chemists at Utrecht University made this discovery together with their colleagues at TU Delft and the Aalto University in Finland.

Metal-semiconductor-metal junction (tunnel barrier) incorporated into a single graphene nanoribbon

The ‘wonder material’ graphene has many interesting characteristics, and researchers around the world are hard at work looking for new ways to utilise them. Graphene itself does not have the characteristics  to switch electrical currents on and off, however, so smart solutions must be found for that particular problem.

“The great thing about our solution is its atomic precision. By selecting certain precursor substances (molecules), we can code the structure of the electrical circuit with extreme accuracy”, explains research leader Ingmar Swart from Utrecht University.

The chemical pathway to graphene electronic circuits

Seamless Integration

The switch structureded on the principle of graphene nanoribbons. Previous research has shown that the ribbon’s electronic characteristics are dependent on its atomic width. A ribbon that is five atoms wide is an ordinary electric wire with extremely good conduction characteristics, but adding two atoms makes the ribbon a semiconductor.

“We are now able to seamlessly integrate a five-atom wide ribbon together with one that is seven atoms wide. That gives you a metal-semiconductor junction, which works as a diode”, according to Swart.

The work is published in Nature Communications, you can check it out on this link.

Diamond-Based MOSFETs Are Now Real

A research group at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has developed logic circuits equipped with diamond-based metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect-transistors (MOSFETs) at two different operation modes – a first step toward the development of diamond integrated circuits operational under extreme environments.

Is Diamond Suitable for this?

In fact, diamond has high carrier mobility, a high breakdown electric field and high thermal conductivity. Therefore, it is a promising material to use in the development of current switches and integrated circuits. Specifically to operate stably at high-temperature, high-frequency, and high-power. However, it had been difficult to enable diamond-based MOSFETs to control the polarity of the threshold voltage. In addition, fabricating MOSFETs of two different modes on the same substrate was a challenge. The modes are:  a depletion mode (D mode) and an enhancement mode (E mode).

Thus, the research group has successfully developed a logic circuit equipped with modes. Thanks to threshold control technique that allowed them create hydrogenated diamond NOT and NOR logic circuits composed of D-mode and E-mode MOSFETs.

Micrograph of a fabricated logic circuit equipped with diamond-based transistors

This study was published in the online version of IEEE Electron Device Letters and it is available at the IEEE Electron Digital Library website. Also, check the official announcement for more details.

Meet Spritzer, Sony New Arduino

Sony has recently launched one of its new products, Spritzer! Spritzer is an Arduino-compatible board for IoT applications that has built-in GPS, audio codec, and low power consumption.

While it is Arduino-compatible, the board allows any developer to easily start app development using the free Arduino IDE and an ordinary USB cable. In fact, the board features a processing chip with a unique combination of low power consumption and a rapid clock speed of 156MHz. Thus, it is extremely versatile and it can be deployed for a vast range of use cases.

For the first time, the company demonstrated the board at Tokyo Maker Faire last month with a drone utilizing the GPS and the 6-axis sensor support, a smart speaker utilizing the audio functions, a self-driving line-tracing miniature car, and a low-power smart sensing IoT camera using the camera interface of Spritzer.

Sony Spritzer specifications

  • MCU – Sony CDX5602 ARM Cortex-M4F ×6 micro-controller clocked at up to 156 MHz with 1.5MB SRAM
  • Storage – 8MB Flash Memory, micro SD card
  • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, supported
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack
  • Expansion I/Os
    • Digital I/O Pins – SPI, I2C, UART, PWM ×4 (3.3V)
    • Analog Pins – 6ch (3.3V range)
    • Audio I/O – 8ch Digital MICs or 4ch Analog MICs, Stereo Speaker, I2S, CXD5247 audio codec with 192 kHz/24bit High-Resolution audio
    • 2x camera interfaces
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming
Spritzer Block Diagram

“You’ll have to connect external module to get Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE, a display up to 360×240 resolution can be used via SPI, all sort of sensors can be connected via the expansion header, the board is suitable for microphone arrays, and it can be powered by batteries thanks to a charger circuit and fuel gauge inside CXD5247 audio codec / PMU chip.” – CNXSoft

More details about the board will be available by 2018. Until then, check this Japanese official page about Spritzer, or this translated page.

Learn Arduino Easily with The Arduino Inventor’s Guide

Are you looking for Arduino tutorials? Already over-whelmed by the guides and videos available on the internet? Sparkfun is making Arduino and electronics easier for you with its new book ” The Arduino Inventor’s Guide”!

First of all, the authors of this book , Brian Huang and Derek Runberg, are both working in the department of Education at SparkFun Electronics. Since they are experienced in electronics and educating engineering in schools, they are working towards making electronics easy and fun.

In fact, this 10-project guide is a project-packed introduction to building and coding with Arduino microcontroller. With each hands-on project, total beginners learn useful electronics and coding skills while building an interactive gadgets. Accordingly, this guide is within the introductory-level educational series introduced by No Starch Press and Sparkfun.

“We wanted to share the magic that happens when you build something interactive with electronics,” says Huang. “The goal is to teach real, valuable hardware skills, one project at a time,” adds Runberg.

Content of the book

  • Introduction
  • Electronics Primer
    101 electronics
  • Project 1: Getting Started with Arduino
    Blinking an LED
  • Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House
    A miniature traffic light
  • Project 3: The Nine-Pixel Animation Machine
    An LED screen that displays animated patterns and shapes
  • Project 4: Reaction Timer
    A fast-paced button-smashing game to test your reflexes
  • Project 5: A Color-Mixing Night-Light
    A light-sensitive, color-changing night-light
  • Project 6: Balance Beam
    A challenging ball-balancing game
  • Project 7: Tiny Desktop Greenhouse
    A temperature-sensing mini greenhouse with an automated fan and vent
  • Project 8: Drawbot, the Robotic Artist
    A motorized robot that you can control
  • Project 9: Drag Race Timer
    A racing timer for toy cars
  • Project 10: Tiny Electric Piano
    A tiny electric piano that you can actually play!
  • Appendix: More Electronics Know-How

Reviews

The Arduino Inventor’s Guide will appeal to the gadget freak as well as those who like to put their own spin on things.” —Microcontroller Tips

“This is probably the best Arduino starter book out there! I highly recommend it for every library and classroom.” —Sequential Tart

To sum up, the book is available for $30 on No Starch Press as a printed book and for $25 as an Ebook. In addition, you can check this page for more insights. Also download Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House, and the sketches, templates, and diagrams used in this book.

Water Splitting With Solar Energy

Using solar energy to split water provides an efficient way for large scale renewable energy conversion and storage. A group of researchers from TUDelft and AMOLF have successfully developed an efficient and stable photo-electrode that could improve water splitting with solar energy.

Decomposition of water using solar energy

This photoelectrode absorbs light and directly decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen. In addition to the efficiency, the system is also cheap because of using silicon wafers as the light absorbing material.

The Process

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) splitting of water is a direct conversion of solar to chemical energy to produce renewable and clean fuel. The hydrogen, for example, can be used directly in fuel cells, or combined with other molecules to create durable materials.

Together with colleagues from AMOLF (Amsterdam), we have engineered a photo-electrode, a material that absorbs light and directly splits water, that has a very high efficiency and over 200 hours of stability’, says Wilson Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at TU Delft. ‘This is remarkable in a field where people normally show only a few hours of stability.  We use silicon wafers as the light absorbing material, so the photoelectrode is also very cheap.

Researchers had also designed a new insulator layer to stabilize the semiconductor (Si) photo-electrode, while keeping the high efficiency of water splitting by using two metals. This approach known as making a metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) junction. It is a simple system that combines the stability and catalysis bottlenecks in photoelectrochemical water splitting.

For more information, the researchers had published this research in Nature Communications.

Smallest Satellite Ever Sent & Operated in Orbit By Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot is a research and engineering project by Breakthrough Initiatives to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to the Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light-years away, at speeds between 15% and 20% of the speed of light, taking between 30 and 20 years to get there, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

The project was announced on 12 April 2016 in an event in New York City by physicist and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and cosmologist Stephen Hawking who is serving as board member of the initiatives. Other board members include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The project has an initial funding of US$100 million to start research. Milner places the final mission cost at $5–10 billion, and estimates the first craft could launch around 2036.

It is now in orbit!

On June 23, the initiative sent the tiniest-ever satellites into orbit. Thanks to an Indian rocket, 6 of these satellites, as named as Sprites, went to space. Some of them were attached to larger satellites: : the Latvian Venta satellite and the Italian Max Valier satellite which will release the other four Sprites to orbit once communications are achieved.

In fact, each Sprite contains a computer processor, solar panels, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, and a radio for communicating with researchers on Earth and all in a size of  3.5×3.5 cm circuit board.
Until now, only one signal came from on of the 2 Sprites. Since the Max Valier hasn’t established a connection yet, the remaining Sprites didn’t detach. Usually the satellite should receive a command to release its cargo, and this is not possible without a functioning antenna.
Despite the humble results, the team is feeling victorious. Having these small and cheap satellites hovering over the space and doing part of the job is an achievement.
These tiny satellites can go along on a planetary exploration mission and start deployment once they get there. By using these satellites, the risk of sending large spacecrafts will diminish.
 To find more details about the Breakthrough Starshot, check out this official website.

Save Time & Money With Our Buy Parts Section

electronic circuit board with processor

In November 2016, we launched our “Buy Parts” section in partnership with OEMSecrets. It is a search engine for electronic parts with many useful capabilities. This is a time saving tool which will help makers find the best offers for their needs by entering the MPN.

By providing a price comparison feature, it becomes one of the leading search engines in the electronics market. In addition, the database is very large and contains most parts and components from leading distributors and manufacturers. DigikeyFarnellelement14, Avnet, RS, TTI are in the list with many other electronics suppliers.

Main features of the engine:

  • Price comparison to help you find the best price.
  • Quantity filter to find you the total cost of the part.
  • Quick datasheet downloads to confirm part specifications.
  • Order with ease with our add to basket ‘buy now‘ buttons.
  • Line by line comparison results dedicated to saving you time.
  • Part images available for visual verification before ordering.
  • Quick-find supplier navigation to find favorites.
  • Currency conversions, your zone your currency.

With over 24 million line items of electronic parts from hundreds of electronics distributors and manufacturers, ordering is easy and simple. Buyers are sent directly into the distributors or manufacturers shopping basket to be ready for a quick purchase.

Try the engine now, and share your experience with us!

Turn Your Fidget Spinner Into A Vision Display

Fidget spinner became a popular toy earlier in 2017. Most of us have one or at least have tried it. Consists of a bearing surrounded by a three-lobed flat structure, it can spin along its axis with a little effort.

Makers and hardware hackers always try to employ different tools to make innovative ideas. Some of those makers hacked a fidget spinner to display custom text while it is rotating. The concept is using a vector of LEDs and turn them on and off at each degree according to the required text. Then, when it rotates very fast our eyes will see the full text as it is displayed together.

At this project on HackadaySean Hodgins created a fidget-shape PCB that fits into the spinner. It consists of an 8-LED vector, a 32-bit microcontroller, an 8-bit shift register, and other electronics parts. It is powered by three 3.6 LiPo cell batteries and can be connected with PC through a micro USB connector.

Component needed for this project:

The total cost is about $20 for all parts, and here is the bill of materials. Also the design of the fidget is available for 3D printing for both the body and the caps. In addition, the microcontroller can be programmed simply with Arduino IDE.

Since this project is fully open source, all resources and files are available for download. The github repository includes the CAD files, firmware code and libraries, PCB design, and some pictures.

Although it is a brilliant project, similar projects had been developed before and had started  funding campaigns. But unfortunately, they weren’t successful and didn’t reach their fund goal.

Finally, if you like this idea you can make it by yourself with the help of this video, which describes how to make it and how it works: