Category Archives: Science and Technology

Interesting facts and advances in science and technology that we have in our lives and we don’t even know it

Awesome electronic devices teardowns

I don’t do this often, but I think this guy really deserves some promotion. Recently, I’ve started watching this Youtube channel named “bigclivedotcom“. It’s nothing spectacular in terms of visuals, but the content is amazing if you are a tech freak like I am. Sort of like Ashens (some other guy doing gadget reviews on a sofa, anyway… ๐Ÿ™‚ ) without the sofa and nasty food, but with soldering iron and multimeter. Them both being British is just a coincidence ๐Ÿ˜›

This guy tears down but is not limited to electronic devices of all sorts, ranging from LED’s, electric water pumps, demagnetizers, arc lighters, butthole heaters and vibrators to making honey rum and vodka. If it runs on any kind of power, he’ll tear it apart, explain how it works, he’ll comment on device construction, what could be done better or what is already done well and will in pretty much all cases also explain with a blueprint schematic on how circuitry is designed.

He’s also really good at explaining things on “dumb” level so you can understand explanation even if your electrical knowledge is very limited. And I think that’s his strongest point. Dumbing down highly technical stuff so anyone can understand it, but still keeps enough technical stuff so even very advanced viewers can see useful info.

Here is one of his more typical recent videos for a taste…

Pretty cool isn’t it? I’ve already learned so much stuff about things I’ve used myself, but never really bothered to look inside the device even though I roughly know and understand the basics around it.

If you like this sort of stuff, check out his:

bigclivedotcom webpage:
http://www.bigclive.com

bigclivedotcom Youtube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/bigclivedotcom

If you have any suggestions for upcoming reviews or questions about his existing videos, you can drop him a comment or even an e-mail. You can find e-mail address on his webpage. Don’t forget to subscribe to his channel because he makes videos quite regularly.

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Difference between single and multiple rail power supply units (PSU)

There are countless myths about single and multiple rails used in computer power supply units (PSU), but here is the best explanation I’ve seen which further opened my eyes. I used to be a fan of single rail designs because they are just easier to manage on overclocked systems, but I never thought about benefits of multiple rails. And Tech Syndicate made a great interview with someone from Corsair (they also make some pretty damn good PSU’s).

There are also other vendors like German computer hardware maker Be Quiet! that doesn’t offer switching through software, but they offer mode switching through a physical switch/jumper on the PSU itself. There might be other PSU makers as well, but I’m currently only aware of these two.

Air conditioning units, the silent power consumers

I had plans to write about this few months ago, but have somehow failed to deliver.

I’m using a split air conditioning unit from Zibro. It’s several years old unit which was one of the highest end units back when I bought it.

I was curious how much it consumes when heating function is running during a winter. I’ve used it here and there when it was really cold. Plugged it through the watt-o-meter and I got my results. Turned it off and that’s when I got shocked…

Basics

While in OFF (standby) state, it was consuming ~90W of power. 90W for doing nothing at all, just being plugged into a wall socket. For reference, that’s almost like having a 100W incandescent bulb turned on 24/7!

At first I thought it’s something wrong with the measurements, but after doing some research, I’ve found out why it is like this. It’s not mentioned ANYWHERE in the instruction manuals and sales people never mention it when you’re buying AC unit.

Split air conditioning units consist of indoor and outdoor unit. And the outdoor unit is the culprit for this rather excessive power consumption behavior.

The outdoor unit also houses the compressor which pumps the coolant around the system and the reason for consumption is the heater within it, that keeps the liquids and particularly lubrication within compressor in a proper aggregate state. If lubrication becomes too thick due to very low temperatures, when you fire up the compressor it will wear significantly faster than with proper lubrication. And because of that, outdoor unit has its own thermostat that keeps compressor at a correct temperature at all times, keeping compressor always instantly ready for a wear-less operation.

Basic calculations

Where I live, winters often last from mid October till beginning of March. Roughly 5 months if we round it up. If unit is consuming power at the rate of 90W per hour, that’s 0,09 kW an hour. Times 24 for a full day makes it 2,16 kW a day. 5 months is roughly 150 days if we count them all as 30 days, making the total power consumption of 324 kWh for each winter season! 324 kWh of wasted power for doing NOTHING at all except being plugged into a wall socket. That’s a lot of power literally being thrown out the window.

For a better perspective, this is the equivalent power consumption to a 400+ liter, two door American style class A++ refrigerator running for a whole year!

Based on further research, power consumption depends on the age, tech level of the AC unit as well as outdoor temperatures. Certain newer high-end AC units have significantly lower power consumption to keep the compressor warm compared to my unit. But still, consuming even just 10W is 10W too much. Use watt-o-meter if you have one and do the measurements yourself. This mostly applies to countries that have winters. If you’re in a region with constant summer, I don’t think it’s even worth bothering. But for regions with winters, it can make a MASSIVE difference to the power bill and the environment.

Solutions

If you do live in region where you have winters and you know you won’t need the AC unit for the entire winter, simply unplug it from the wall. If it’s not running, it won’t be harmed by the extremely low temperatures. This way you’ll eliminate the heater and save tons of power.

Warning and limitation!

If you do live in a region affected by winters and you plan on using AC unit for dehumidification or heating during the winter, you need to plug it into the wall socket at least 12 hours prior actually activating its dehumidifier/heater function. The heater should heat up the compressor in 12 hours sufficiently enough. Then it is safe to actually run the AC unit and use it as usual. The unit will work regardless, but be aware that you’ll significantly shorten its lifespan.

Home light bulb types and uses

I’m quite surprised people still don’t know what are the benefits and uses for different types of light bulbs that can be used in home. I work with these on daily basis and I thought, why not explain their usage to you guys in a quick article. So, here is a tiny guide on what to use, where to use and when to use the correct bulb for the given situation…

 

HalogenBulbIncandescent (halogen):

+ cheap
+ turns on instantly+ relatively durable for repeated on/off
+ compact size
+ can operate well at very high and low temperatures
+ dimmable
– high power consumption
– generates tons of radiated heat
– relatively short lifespan (usually up to 2000h)
– doesn’t like shocks and strong vibrations
– slightly more tolerant to voltage fluctuations

 

 

“Old” incandescent or current slightly improved halogen light bulbs are still an excellent choice for transition rooms where they don’t glow for longer periods of time and are often turned on and off in very short intervals. They are cheap and will still operate for very long time in such situations. They are also a good choice for sensor lights that are triggered by motion and for usage in very cold (outdoor lighting for places with winters) or very hot environments (lava lamps, salt lamps, ovens etc). Glowing wire is always dimmable so that can be useful for certain situations.

They are also a bit more tolerant to voltage fluctuations. If you happen to live closer to a power distribution station, these might last longer than other two. They do get their life shortened, but they will most likely survive few of such incidents.

They are not recommended for rooms where they’ll be used for several hours at a timeย (power consumption) and where no heat should be radiated around it (desk lamps, inside refrigerators etc).

 

PowerSavingBulbFluorescent:

+ relatively small
+ low power consumption
+ generates very small amount of radiated heat
+ very long lifespan (up to 20.000h)
+ quite compact
= moderately expensive, but can be very cheap
– doesn’t like shocks or vibrations
– takes up to 1 minute to reach full brightness
– doesn’t like repeated on/off unless specific model
– doesn’t like very low or very high temperatures
– not dimmable unless specific model
– they contain traces of mercury
– somewhat sensitive to large voltage fluctuations

 

They are in a way a dying breed of lightbulbs seeing how prices of LED are dropping. But you can get them really cheap now and they can still be very useful for quite a lot of situations, especially for rooms where they might glow for hours without a break and you need a very affordable initial investment.

They however have quite some limitations, the time needed for most to start-up is quite long so they aren’t useful for transition rooms and sensor lights unless you pay premium for quick-start models and even those need few seconds to reach full glow. Repeated on/off shortens their lifespan considerably unless you pay premium for models with 100.000x On/OFF models and they aren’t dimmable unless if you pay premium to get such model. They also don’t like very low temperatures unless if you pay premium for outdoor models. They also contain traces of mercury (usually around 5 milligrams), but I personally don’t see it problematic considering we actually ingest mercury regularly by eating fish. It is an environmental problem though when they get disposed (especially when not done properly).

Unlike halogen, these tend to be more sensitive to voltage fluctuations. Halogens just get their life shortened where these often just die instantly.

 

LEDBulbLED:

+ turns on instantly
+ can be turned on and off very frequently
+ compact size
+ very low power consumption
+ generates no radiated heat
+ extremely long lifespan (up to 50.000h)
+ highly shock and vibration resistant
= loves colder environments, dislikes hot environment
– still relatively expensive
– not dimmable unless specific model
– somewhat sensitive to large voltage fluctuations

 

Latest and greatest, LED is basically the best all-around option. They consume very little power, you can flip them on and off as much as you like, they reach full brightness instantly and while they generate heat, it is not a directed radiated heat, instead it’s released at the back through a metal heatsink and they actually love colder environments, so winters aren’t really an issue for these. In fact they increase their lifespan, because they are cooled properly.

Unlike halogen, these tend to be more sensitive to voltage fluctuations. Halogens just get their life shortened where these often just die instantly.

The only real remaining limitation is the price and limited use in certain situations like lava lamps where bulb has to generate heat, otherwise it just won’t work or for ovens where heat actually slowly shortens the lifespan of the LED elements. The future is in LED for sure.

Still not sure?

Feel free to ask me below, I’ll be happy to advise ๐Ÿ™‚

Titanium enhanced devices and objects

To fly away from harassing feminists for a bit, I’ll cover an interesting thing in the field that I also love so much, technology. This time, titanium enhanced devices and objects. How exactly “enhanced”? Read on…

I’m pretty certain every one of you came across something that had “Titanium coated”, “Titanium enhanced” or simply “TITANIUM” written on the box. Be it drill bits, beard shavers, electric hair cutters, knives etc.

We all value titanium as the toughest metal on Earth. Because it has been widely represented in science fiction or action movies and because it’s named after Greek god “Titan” which simply sounds majestic. TITAN. Say that with anger! See? It does sound majestic ๐Ÿ™‚

However, few years ago, I’ve come across an interesting revelation that elemental titanium (or pure titanium) actually isn’t particularly stronger than stainless steel. They are very close on the Moh’s scale (around 6 Moh’s) when it comes to hardness, so why the hell they use it to somehow enhance our everyday gadgets?

The trick lays in Titanium Nitride (TiN). It is a titanium ceramic (based on its crystalline form) which is around 12-15 times harder than stainless steel and has a hardness value of 9 Moh’s (Diamond has a value 10, so you can imagine how hard TiN really is) and is usually applied to surfaces that sustain heavy friction. That’s why you see it used on blades and drill bits for the most part. It is applied in very thin layer, usually less than 5 microns (0,005 mm). Because it’s so hard, it will retain sharpness of the blades and drill bits for a lot longer than if you’d use plain stainless steel or carbon steel. You can recognize blades covered with TiN through color which looks very similar to gold (yellowish metallic color).

There are also other forms of enhanced titanium used for similar purposes, like Titanium Carbide or Titanium Diboride, but you will hardly ever see these used for personal care gadgets like shavers. Maybe on rugged military knives and drill bits. These are mostly used for heavy industry and usually have grey to dark grey tint instead of golden.

To sum things up in few words, this thin layer of titanium ceramic (TiN) provides superior wear resistance, superior chemical resistance and is also very friendly to our skin since it is non-allergenic like stainless steel (due to nickel in the stainless steel alloy).

So, the next time you’ll see a device or object that brags with TITANIUM on the box, you’ll know why it says so. It has a cool factor for sure, but mostly because it has very cool characteristics and makes our tools and gadgets last a lot longer for very small price increase.