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Archive for January 28th, 2019

Vacuum Tube LEDs: Arduino Pro Mini vs. NP-BX1 Battery

A year or so ago, a certain Young Engineer suggested my Vacuum Tube Lights really needed battery power and rebuffed my feeble objections concerning low LED intensity (3.6-ish V, not plug-in 5 V USB) and short run time (because three constantly lit LEDs draw too much current). Having a spare NP-BX1 holder lying about, here’s a feasibility study:

Arduino Pro Mini - Neopixel - NP-BX1 battery
Arduino Pro Mini – Neopixel – NP-BX1 battery

Not much to it, eh?

Hitching the DSO150 to a Tek current probe (which needs a 50 Ω load, thus the terminator on the BNC tee) seems a clear-cut case of a sow’s ear joining forces with a silk purse:

DSO150 - Arduino Pro Mini - Neopixel current
DSO150 – Arduino Pro Mini – Neopixel current

It was just sitting there, so why not?

Seen with a bit more detail on a better scope:

Ard Mini - NP-BX1 - SK6812 - 10 mA-div
Ard Mini – NP-BX1 – SK6812 – 10 mA-div

Each vertical increment represents the current into a single LED (at 10 mA/div), with the PWM cycles ticking along at 1.3 kHz.

The current steps aren’t the same height, because the LEDs have different forward voltages. The taller step (at the top) probably comes from the red LED, with the other two being blue and green. The maximum current is only 40 mA, not the 60 mA you’d expect with a 5 V supply.

The PWM width, of course, determines the brightness of each LED. Eyeballometrically, the average current will be half of 40 mA for (just less than) half of each PWM cycle, so figuring each SK6812 module (there’s only one here) will draw 10 mA seems reasonable.

The “base load” from the Arduino looks like 2 mA, so there’s not much point in removing its power and status LEDs.

The NP-BX1 lithium cell has lost enough capacity to no longer power my Sony HDR-AS30V helmet camera for at least half of a typical ride. The camera draws around 1 A, so you can clearly see the defunct batteries:

Sony NP-BX1 - 2018-04-24
Sony NP-BX1 – 2018-04-24

If the average voltage during discharge is 3.3. V, then a 10 mA load would be 33 mW and a defunct NP-BX1 battery with 2 W·h capacity (at 1 A) might provide 60 hours of continuous use. I’d expect more capacity at lower current, although it’s not clear the cells actually behave that way.

So a battery-powered Vacuum Tube Light might make sense, perhaps as romantic illumination for techie snuggling:

21HB5A - Guilloche platter
21HB5A – Guilloche platter

Ya never know …

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