Tag Archives: Byzantine circuits

Un-improving range on the infrared channel

It turned out doing software UART was a terrible idea.  The processor is way too slow to support a reasonable baud rate.  I did figure out how to use a comparator though: the key phrase I was missing was “rail-to-rail.”  That means that inputs can be in the full voltage range from ground to Vcc.  Another handy phrase is “push-pull,” which means that the comparator can output 0 and 1; in contrast, an “open collector” comparator can only output 0, and needs an external resistor to pull the output to 1.

I bought a rail-to-rail push-pull comparator, the MCP6541, and tried it with the receiver circuit, and sure enough it increased the maximum range significantly.  Unfortunately it also increased the minimum range significantly.

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How not to power an acoustic modem

crummy power supply

How not to generate a ±10 V power supply

I feel pretty dumb talking to nobody like this.  My domain name doesn’t even work yet, but I guess logging is what engineers do.  And I’m imaginative enough to see the utility of it: it’ll be nice down the line to have a log to review, writing stuff down helps flesh out ideas, and an open design process will make it a heck of a lot easier to produce open documentation.  It will be tough to expose all my bad decisions and half-baked ignorance (and mixed metaphors), but I can suck it up.

My first project is to build an acoustic modem.  This follows the principle of multiplying work: the modem doubles as my class project for ELEC 571: Underwater Acoustics.  We’ve been using the Devantech SRF04 ultrasonic ranger in the mechatronics lab, and it strongly informs my design.  The SRF04 actually uses an RS-232 chip to generate ±9 V levels, which actuate a piezoelectric transducer.  I took a couple of the transducers from a broken SRF04 to use for my project.

I tried using an RS-232 chip that we had lying around in the lab, but those things have draconian current limits.  There’s no way I can power a whole circuit off of one.  I’m probably going to try it again soon though.

My solution: a DC/DC converter (AP34063N8L) to step up a 7.4 V lithium polymer battery up to 20 V.  Taking half the output as the reference voltage will produce a ±10 V power supply.  With that I can power pretty much anything I want. Continue reading