ICECool – An Intra-Chip Cooling System That Is More Efficient

In the Moore’s Law race to keep improving computer performance, the IT industry has turned upward, stacking chips like nano-sized 3D skyscrapers. But those stacks have their limits, due to overheating. Researchers from IBM have solved this problem by developing an intra-chip cooling system as a contribution to ICECool program research project by the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

ICECool - intra-chip cooling system by IBM
ICECool – intra-chip cooling system by IBM

Today, chips are typically cooled by fans which blow air through heatsinks that sit on top of the chips to carry away excess heat. Advanced water-cooling approaches, which are more effective than air-cooling approaches, replace the heatsink with a cold plate that is fixed on the top of the chip.  But this approach requires extra protection and proper insulation of the chip because of the electrical conductivity of water. Neither of these technologies can cool down the chip much efficiently. Here comes the ICECool that cools the chip down from the inside rather than just from the upper surface.

ICECool uses a nonconductive fluid to bring the fluid into the chip. This completely eliminates the need for a barrier between the chip and fluid. It not only delivers a lower device junction temperature, but also reduces system size, weight, and power consumption significantly. The tests performed on the IBM Power 7+ chips demonstrated junction temperature reduction by 25ᵒ C, and chip power usage reduction by 7 percent compared to traditional air cooling. This is clearly a great achievement when the operating cost is much smaller than the conventional cooling technologies.

IBM’s ICECool intra-chip cooling system solves the problem of cooling the 3D “skyscraper” chips by pumping a heat-extracting dielectric fluid right into microscopic gaps, some no thicker than a single strand of hair, between the chips at any level of the stack. Being nonconducting, the dielectric fluid used in ICECool can come into contact with electrical connections without causing any short circuit, so is not limited to one part of a chip or stack. Based on the tests with IBM Power Systems, ICECool technology could reduce the cooling energy for a traditional air-cooled data center by more than 90 percent.

Teardown & Repair of an Agilent E3632A DC Power Supply

In this episode Shahriar & Rosanah investigate an Agilent power supply which does not appear to power on. It can be quickly observed that the fuse has failed on the unit. Using an isolation transformer a small amount of AC voltage is applied to the unit after the fuse replacement. It is clear that a short is present somewhere in the instrument since even at 10V AC the instrument consumes more than 1A.

Teardown & Repair of an Agilent E3632A DC Power Supply – [Link]

Four-Channel Thermometer on OLED display

David Johnson-Davies @ technoblogy.com build a four-channel thermometer that monitors the temperature at four temperature sensors, and gives a continuous readout on a small 128×32 OLED display. It’s a useful project for various applications like PSU or PC monitoring. The article describes 1-wire and code in details.

It could be used in any application where you want to monitor multiple temperatures, such as in controlling a greenhouse, checking the output transistors in a power amplifier, monitoring key points in an overclocked gaming PC, monitoring the chips on a Raspberry Pi, or checking the temperature in different rooms in a home.

Four-Channel Thermometer on OLED display – [Link]

DevDuino – Learn and Explore Arduino World

DevDuino is a Fully Redesigned and Enhanced Arduino-Compatible Board with Plenty of Must-Have Features. It features a 128×64 OLED display, along with a variety of LED indicators, RTC module, a slot for a micro SD card, and many other convenient features. The project is live on kickstarter and has 29 days to go. [via]

DevDuino – Learn and Explore Arduino World – [Link]

WISP – Re-programmable Microcontroller That Runs On Energy Harvested From Radio Waves

A new research initiative between the University of Washington’s Sensor Lab and the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands has created a microprocessor that can power itself through stray radio waves and receive programmable updates in the same fashion. While the RISC-derived 16-bit microcontroller CPU is very weak compared to modern standards, it’s much more powerful than any other device that’s powered by ambient energy in the environment with no battery required.

The WISP 5 - Microchips and sensors run from radio wave's energy
The WISP 5 – Microchips and sensors run from radio wave’s energy

This battery-free system is equipped with a sensor and a microchip, which can be powered entirely by radio waves harvested from the air and is up to 10 times faster than similar ambient-powered devices. Best of all, in contrast to similar devices, it can also download executables, allowing it be reprogrammed or upgraded to newer version of firmware whenever needed. This has significant implications for the Internet of Things development and for ambient computing as a whole.

The variety of handheld, portable technology, and wearable gadgets available today is truly amazing. In order to make devices even more compact and thinner, manufacturers typically try to shrink their designs as much as possible. Unfortunately, device size is ultimately limited by the batteries, all of which have a certain capacity before they dry out and must be recharged again. It is a challenge for engineers and designers to balance battery life with function and aesthetics.

The project of radio wave-driven microcontroller is dubbed WISP, or Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform. RFID (CRFID) technology is an example of  WISP. In particular, WISP is capable of being powered passively by converting radio frequencies emitted by conventional RFID (radio frequency identification) readers into electrical power. The project’s latest accomplishment is the addition of Wisent (short for “wirelessly sent”), a faster and more reliable downstream communication-oriented protocol for CRFIDs that can tolerate fluctuations in operating power.

The WISP is constructed out of an open source, open architecture EPC Class 1 Generation 2 RFID tag that incorporates a fully programmable 16-bit microcontroller, in addition to any add-on sensors. It differs from ordinary RFID tags as it is programmable, and can be multi-functional. The team writes in their research paper,

The novelty of Wisent is its ability to change adaptively the frame length sent by the reader, based on the length throttling mechanism, to minimize the transfer times at varying channel conditions. Wisent enables wireless CRFID reprogramming, demonstrating the world’s first wirelessly reprogrammable CRFID.

ESP32 WiFi Weather Station with a Nextion Display

Our friends at educ8s.tv uploaded a new video about how to build a ESP32 Wifi enabled weather station:

In this video, we are going to make this. It is yet another weather station project I know, but this time we use the new ESP32 chip! We also use the new BME280 sensor which measures the temperature, the humidity, and the barometric pressure. When we power up the project, it connects to the WiFi network, and it is going to retrieve the weather forecast for my location from the openweathermap website. Then it will display the forecast on this 3.2” Nextion Touch Display along with the readings from the sensor! The readings are updated every two seconds and the weather forecast every hour! As you can see, in this project we use the latest technologies available to a maker today! If you are a DIY veteran, you can build this project in five minutes. If you are a beginner, you have to watch a couple of videos before attempting this project. You can watch those videos by clicking on the cards that will appear during the video. Let’s start!

ESP32 WiFi Weather Station with a Nextion Display – [Link]

TSL2540 Ambient Light Sensor matches eye-response

TSL2540: Other Product Document (English)

ams (Graz, Austria) has posted details of the TSL2540, a very-high sensitivity light-to-digital converter. Evaluation kit is available:

The TSL2540 is a very-high sensitivity light-to-digital converter that approximates the human eye response to light intensity under varying lighting conditions and transforms this light intensity to a digital signal output capable through a 1.8V I²C interface. The ALS sensor features 2 output channels, a visible channel and an IR channel. The visible channel has a photodiode with a photopic Interferometric UV and IR blocking filter and the IR channel has a photodiode with an IR pass filter.

TSL2540 Ambient Light Sensor matches eye-response – [Link]

PcbDraw – KiCAD board into a nice looking 2D drawing

Convert your KiCAD boards into nice looking 2D drawings suitable for pinout diagrams. Never draw them manually again! [via]

Jan Mrázek created a Python script that takes a KiCAD board (.kicad_pcb file) and produces a 2D nice looking drawing of the board as an SVG file.

This small Python script takes a KiCAD board (.kicad_pcb file) and produces a 2D nice looking drawing of the board as an SVG file. This allows you to quickly and automatically create awesome pinout diagrams for your project. These diagrams are much easier to read than a labeled photo of a physical board or an actual KiCAD design.

PcbDraw – KiCAD board into a nice looking 2D drawing – [Link]

USB powered – PCB TeslaCoil

Daniel Eindhoven build a usb powered Teslacoil able to produce small sparks. The coil of the device is printed on the board!

A new and improved PCB spiral Teslacoil. This Teslacoil has etched windings on a print circuit board. It has a USB interface which also powers the coil. The resonance frequency is about 4MHz. It has a turns ratio of 1:160 with 6mil tracks for the secondary. The total trace length of the secondary is 25m.

USB powered – PCB TeslaCoil – [Link]

Making of a New Nixie Tube

Dalibor Farny shows us how he hand make new Nixie tubes on this interesting video!

The nixie tube is a vintage display device which had been used until 70s when it was replaced with LED displays. The complex knowledge of manufacture of nixie tubes literally died with tube factory’s engineers, glassblowers and machine operators. I discovered nixie tubes in 2011 and since then, I’ve devoted all my time to studies of nixie tubes and its manufacturing processes. After years of intensive work, with help of many people, I eventually succeeded and have revived the knowledge and equipment for production of nixie tubes.

Making of a New Nixie Tube – [Link]