I mentioned before that I’m basing my acoustic transducer off the Devantech SRF04 ultrasonic ranger. I’m removing the piezoelectric transducers from a dead SRF04 unit and using them for my modem. The transducers, which are the part that generate and receive the acoustic pressure wave that carries data, have a range of about 6 metres or so (one way), are driven with up to 20 V, and resonate at around 40 kHz.
The puzzle I’m working on right now is how best to actuate the transducer to generate a 40 kHz pulse. The SRF04 does it using a chip that’s intended to convert 5 V logic signals into the ±12 V signals used for the RS-232 serial protocol. Unfortunately most RS-232 converter chips aren’t made to power an acoustic transducer, and they aren’t able to provide enough current to generate a strong signal.
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 →