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After-hours Fun with Capacitors at Work?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the mad-scientists-in-training dept.

Hardware Hacking 82

Chiggy_Von_Richtoffe asks "Hey, Folks! I start a new job at a small manufacturing plant (capacitors and small run custom circuit boards) in a few days, which itself is kind of cool. What is even more cool is that their facilities include an electron microscope, programmable high temperature ovens (think kilns), rapid cooling chambers (liquid CO2) to test component robustness, a lapping machine, all the kinds of ceramics i can think off, as well as equipment for die cutting, electroplating, and a few other industry related tasks. This of course fills my mind with wicked designs for homebrew projects, but i am always looking for new ideas to try. Given this kind of workshop what sort of (non-destructive, and fully legal) DIY projects could you come up with?"

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82 comments

Permission? (4, Insightful)

karnal (22275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223755)

Make sure you have permission to do any of this. I know you didn't state that you did NOT have permission, but you also didn't state you DO have permission to use any of these toys "after hours"...

On a related note, in my early years as a sysadmin some people were "let go" from a company I worked for because they were using the company assets to play games on. Now, this was after hours, and nothing was destroyed, but management finding out about what was happening (from network traces) was all it took to say "See ya!"

Of course, I could just be over-reacting, thinking you'd be using the facilities just for fun. You might just be willing to be a customer of the company you work for. I guess you didn't spell that out either....

Just dot your i's and cross your t's.

What kind of first impression are you giving? (4, Insightful)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223947)

Obviously, getting permission is important. But even if you get permission, do you really want to be playing games with work equipment right away? I would strongly recommend waiting until you have become a respected and valued employee before you pull stunts like using work equipment for non-work projects. Hey, I'm a technical manager and I read slashdot damn near every hour -- does your new boss? If s/he sees your post and can easily figure out who you are, what are they going to think about you? You haven't even started work and you're preoccupied with how to play games? That's not the kind of employee I want working for me.

My advise? Concentrate on doing good work and impressing your co-workers and management before you even think about playing around. You can repost your Ask Slashdot question in six-months (and don't include so damn many details about yourself and your job next time).

GMD

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (1)

vettemph (540399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225771)

>>> You haven't even started work and you're preoccupied with how to play games? That's not the kind of employee I want working for me.

  Where I work, We like engineers who build toys for themselves. That is what separates the creative mastermind from the average engineer worker bee.

  We are 'told' to place 10% of our work time on a pet project. (let alone after hours stuff)

  i'm sorry to here about where you work and how you are. :)

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14226031)

No kidding. All of these nanny-boss warnings are really depressing to read.

When you (the original poster) start your new job, some of your most expensive and highest-performing test gear will say "Hewlett-Packard," "Tektronix," or "Agilent" on it. That equipment was designed by people who were hired, given the key to the company storeroom, and politely asked to go home and take a shower once in awhile.

Nothing excellent has ever grown from a culture of micromanagement and managerial niggling.

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14226306)

that's a bunch of hippie, kumbaya bullshit. i dont care *who* you work for, if you don't demonstrate *some* kind of aptitude to integrate yourself into the process of the workflow, you need to leave. The fact that the original poster is asking for advice on what to do with all this neat shit doesn't say much for his creativity. I work for a company rife with "micromanagement and managerial niggling," but I've managed to design and implement a system which saves reams of paper and saves the company a lot of money, within the confines of that environment. No keys, no storeroom, just the desire to make things better. And I shower regularly. You dont need bean bags and ping pong tables to come up with something "revolutionary," just motivation.

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14228390)

potty mouth

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14229894)

Wow. "Saves reams of paper." It must be nice to go to bed at night with a smile on your face.

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14250712)

that's a bunch of hippie, kumbaya bullshit.

No, more like "the reason I will chose job Y over job X".

I spend roughly half of my waking hours at work. Why would I want to spend that much time with a bunch of self-righteous micromanaging pricks, when I can spend it with Kumbaya-singing hippies who appreciate a good Foozeball game during the occasional break?

"I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints..."



You dont need bean bags and ping pong tables to come up with something "revolutionary,"

True, you do not.

But then, the "best" people, hippie or not, generally prefer having such things available. Does your company want the best people - Or want to chase them away by eliminating all the little perks that make a job fun?

Re:What kind of first impression are you giving? (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14257968)

I've seen alot of amazing engineering come about this way.

More than a couple of great products were coctail napkin ideas that an engineer ran off and created a prototype and then showed it to his boss.

Re:Permission? (4, Informative)

Chiggy_Von_Richtoffe (565992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224966)

Hmmm ... It looks like I failed to state this in a way that would do anything but attract answers from jokers (Karnal , GMD, and HotNeedleOfInquiry exempted). Let me try this again by qualifying my statements.
*My new job is not something I am not taking lightly, I strongly respect my new bosses/co-workers and I plan on being there for the long haul.
*Because of this all of my extracurricular activities will be exactly that - done off the clock and in such a way that it does not interfere with any job related processes.

>> I would strongly recommend waiting until you have >>become a respected and valued employee before you pull >>stunts like using work equipment for non-work projects.

On this I agree whole-heartedly. I am just using this forum as a sort of brainstorming network for projects that I can look forward to eventually. Preferably those like what can be found in the "Bench Tested Circuits" series rather than "hey jeeter, lookit what i can do!" as well as other not-so electronics based projects - ceramics again (like making a nice graphite crucible for a gingery furnace), filters for optics geekery, or tiny reciever/trasmitter projects. If you have any suggestions of this sort great, if you have anything more imaginative even better.

Oh and regarding obtaining permission, I have tacit approval already (as long as it's not illegal, excessively dangerous, or would be distruptive to tommorow's workflow) but I want to be able to give strong cogent reasons why allowing me to use their equipment is a good-thing(tm).

For those who rise to the challenge, I thank you in advance and will post updates of selected projects both here and Hack-A-Day.

Re:Permission? (2, Interesting)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227934)

Also, the I.P. for anything you create in this environment will be owned by the company. I suspect if they think you are capable of anything significantly creative, they may 'set you loose' and be ready to sic the lawyers on you as soon as it is to their advantage.

Many of us maintain signifcant home labs specifically because anything created using the company gear is the companies' property.

Re:Permission? (1)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 8 years ago | (#14237677)

My new job is not something I am not taking lightly

Huh?

Are you or are you not taking your job lightly? Not, not?

Re:Permission? (1)

Shant3030 (414048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14259874)

How happy do you think your boss would be if you broke an expensive piece of equipment because you were working on a "homebrew" project?

And why do you want to stay at work any longer than you have to?

non-destructive (5, Funny)

Myrkur (621981) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223766)

"non-destructive, and fully legal"

Where's the fun in that?

Get back to work... (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223773)

...and break something!

Sounds like a fun job to get to break stuff.

I have no suggestions because all of my ideas or various combinations of non-legal and destructive. Carry on, now.

think kilns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14223792)

What types of ceramics can you think of (without using google ;))

Serial and Parallel games. (2, Interesting)

mnmn (145599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223814)

Take a long list of capacitors.

Put them all in parallel.

Charge them up.

Quickly put them all in serial.

The results can be interesting...

Speaking of die cutters... make capacitors of two metal plates with a layer of ceramic in the middle. Before you put the ceramic in there and glue it all up, dunk the ceramic in water. Charging it quickly should be fun.

Re:Serial and Parallel games. (2, Informative)

jpmkm (160526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225307)

The proper name for something like that is marx generator [earthlink.net] . Damn cool shit. Just be careful.

Re:Serial and Parallel games. (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14229624)

Yeah, be very careful, or you might end up dealing with vintage politicking! ;-)

Re:Serial and Parallel games - Backwards Games (1)

the_povinator (936048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14256915)

At school they used to leave one of the physics labs open. Me and my friends used to go in
and hook up those tin-can-shaped capacitors backwards to the power supply. It makes them blow up.
It gave us no end of fun... but they do create a bad smell.

Careful! (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223817)

Be careful with electricity! [ohmfree.com]

Re:Careful! (1)

students (763488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224176)

I think that's photoshoped.

Re:Careful! (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224457)

Follow the link next to the pictures labelled "Source (not original)" and you can see larger pictures with more detail.

Re:Careful! (1)

confusion here (827020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225075)

Why don't you try it out, and report back here.

I'd pay a dollar to see that.

Re:Careful! (1)

students (763488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14226367)

I did; the high-res pictures look worse than some things I've seen on Fark. And I'm not even a regular farker.

Seriously, be careful. (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14223881)

I was taking a part an old disposable camera a few months ago, and since the camera was a few years old I (wrongly) assumed that the capacitor had lost it's charge. ZZZZAAAAPPPPP!!!

Goddamn that hurt like hell... just like a stun gun. Like hooking up one of the informercial ab-dealies to a lightning rod!

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225564)

Haha, I did that once. I had it open and charged up then dropped it. Instictually, I tried to catch it, and ended up with a finger stuck in there such that the capacitor dischared up my arm. It didn't hurt so much as the shock surprised the hell out of me. :-P Needless to say, I didn't do that again for a while.

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14229864)

Not as much fun as this...

I have a portable, battery-powered fence energizer (Premier 20B). Well, my daughter was bringing it over to me. I asked her (she was only 6 yrs old at the time...), "did you turn it off?"

"Uh huh"

So I grab the leads, one in each hand, and start to hook to fence.

I was not laughing a couple of moments later (it's about a 7000V discharge).

Well, heart was still ticking afterwards, so I didn't defib myself.

Main message? Trust but verify.

Other source of fun was crawling under the wire, and getting zapped in the back. It hurts your whole body.

Re:Seriously, be careful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253794)

Wow, you sound like a fantastic parent.

Did it occur to you that what hurt like hell when you grabbed it could probably kill your six-year-old daughter? Or that maybe you should make sure its turned off yourself before letting your daughter go near it? And you mentioned the word trust... </disgust>

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

stuffman64 (208233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225784)

Sometimes I help out in the photo-processing department where I work. We get disposable cameras all the time (it's a college town, and people don't want to ruin/lose their digicams when they are drunk). I can't count the number of times I've popped them open and touched the cap inside... sometimes the shock would be so strong I'd lose sensation in my arm for a few minutes and I'd have two marks on my skin from where I contacted the terminals. Of course, what is always fun to do is to charge the cap when it's open, sneak up behind a co-worker, and discharge it with a screwdriver when you're near them. It's loud and always elicits a good jump. Of course, you can always be cruel and sneak up behind someone and touch them with contacts to shock them, but I can't bring myself to do such a thing.

Re:Seriously, be careful. (2, Informative)

Bazman (4849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227347)

I discharged the cap in a disposable camera once using the nearest handy metal object, which was a swiss army knife blade. The edge needed a good sharpening afterwards, since it took two nicks out of it. If it can vaporize metal, just think what it does to flesh...

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227946)

If it can vaporize metal, just think what it does to flesh...


Unless your skin is made of metal, the discharge curve will be much, much less sharp. Your skin is far less conductive than metal.

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14244304)

If it can vaporize metal, just think what it does to flesh...

Or your nervous system. Or your heart.

Depending on what you discharge, it could be the last thing you ever do!

Re:Seriously, be careful. (1)

willpall (632050) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227640)

A co-worker where I used to work would charge a cap and then call someone's name ("Hey, Bob!"). He'd toss the cap as they were turning around and they'd catch a nice suprise. He always chose people who he could outrun.

The scanning electron microscope (4, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224061)

Loads of fun, just be sure you're checked out on it by someone who knows what they are doing. Before you look at anything organic, make sure it's allowed. A running mechanical wristwatch is incredible.

here's a novel idea... (-1, Troll)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224085)

...stop slacking off, do your job, and break stuff on your own time with your own crap.

Dear Slashdot, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14224110)

How can I get fired before I start?

Thanks,

Chiggy

Re:Dear Slashdot, (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225142)

Dear Anonymous Coward,
Whats even more amazing is that you got the job in the first place.

From a disinterested third party... (2, Funny)

SeanTobin (138474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224342)

I've got a couple project ideas for you!

Project 1: Gather up all the cast-off caps, surface mount parts, bits of stripped wire, and dust bunnies on the floor. Place them into a cylindrical faraday cage, lined with an insulative material, and leave the top off the cage so the odd gamma ray strikes them. See if they self-assemble into something interesting

Project 2: Perform high-energy tests of the superstring theory in the ovens. In order to assure that you have the required symmetries, you're going to have to use a bit of that easy-off and clean the gunk off the inside of the ovens first.

Project 3: Test for new low-temperature superconductors. Remember that you're going to have to refill all the empty CO2 canisters first.

Project 4: Perform a detailed analysis of the wave reflection properties of aluminum vs. tin foil. To ensure an accurate reading, recalibrating the electron microscope is going to be necessary. It's a 10-hour job, so make sure you start the minute you get off of work.

I'm sure I can come up with more projects for you. Let me know when you've finished these first.

Re:From a disinterested third party... (1, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225128)

> Project 1: Gather up all the cast-off caps, surface mount parts, bits of stripped wire, and dust
> bunnies on the floor. Place them into a cylindrical faraday cage, lined with an insulative
> material

Translation - Clean up the trash lying around your workplace.

> Project 2: Perform high-energy tests of the superstring theory in the ovens. In order to assure
> that you have the required symmetries, you're going to have to use a bit of that easy-off and
> clean the gunk off the inside of the ovens first.

Translation - Clean the kitchen and then cook dinner for everybody at the office. (and then clean the kitchen again)

> Project 3: Test for new low-temperature superconductors.

Translation - Clean out the office fridge.

> Project 4: Perform a detailed analysis of the wave reflection properties of aluminum vs. tin
> foil. To ensure an accurate reading, recalibrating the electron microscope is going to be
> necessary. It's a 10-hour job, so make sure you start the minute you get off of work.

Translation - Stay out of the way of all the people who actually work at your new place of employment.

Yep, I concur that these are worthwhile projects to do at work.

Re:From a disinterested third party... (1)

FurryFeet (562847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14234225)

Dude, you must be really popular at parties...

well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14224471)

In high school I built a high-voltage charger out of a 555 timer and some diodes, cooled by a closed-end copper pipe filled with ice. Me and a friend would gang together a bunch of big capacitors (big as in HIGH VOLTAGE, for TVs and microwaves), connected to two large spikes, and charge them up to 100's of volts, then touched the spikes to metal objects.

It was pretty cool to see the 0.5cm pits that it blasted out of tempered steel tools. Luckily there weren't any accidents (burns, exploding capacitors, etc).

I was also looking to build a tesla coil at the time but couldn't find a source of thin copper wire (this was beforoe the interweb). I'm kinda glad I didn't find any.

Not the most exciting thing to do with capacitors but it comes to mind...............

Re:well... (1)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 8 years ago | (#14226987)

I was also looking to build a tesla coil at the time but couldn't find a source of thin copper wire

You could have found plenty by taking apart an old TV.


(this was beforoe the interweb).


Beforoe the WHAT?!?!


I'm kinda glad I didn't find any.


Well, you might be dead of permanently disfigured if you had, but think how
much fun you would have had...

safety first (2, Insightful)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14224563)

Seriously. The equipment you describe, and the chemicals that are in use at places that have that kind of equipment are pretty dangerous if misused.

Follow instructions and don't mess around unless you want to wear an eyepatch (or two) for the rest of your life.

Permission (4, Insightful)

faqmaster (172770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225348)

"It is better to ask forgiveness than permission."

Be sure and post links to videos of the resulting explosions.

Re:Permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14228713)

That's not a good way to get a job back either.

Re:Permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253595)

"Poor is the man whose pleasure depends on the permission of another".
~Madonna

(Sorry maybe that should read "Plagiarized by Madonna")

Think kiln (5, Funny)

lost in place (248578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225622)

What is even more cool is that their facilities include [...] programmable high temperature ovens (think kilns)

What's a think kiln? Is that where crackpots are hardened?

projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14225656)

useful-anything that can replace existing chemical based batteries. I have read of large scale projects that are doing capacitive storage for bulk electricty, but nothing for the small gadget market. Batteries work but they *suck*.

fun- MEGA TURBOTASER,like for when zombies attack and stuff. Homeland security probably give ya a half a zillion grant just if you word the proposal sexy enough and throw enough buzzwords at it. Mock up some raygun looking thing... I'll buy one....err...I'll accept a freebie for professional Q and A testing.

useful- a way to get more performance out of electric motors for hybrids. People like fuel economy but they REALLY like punch it to the floor raw power. You should be able to have both....never underestimate ricers wallets....

fun- ion pulse rocket engine, solar powered. The PV panels on your craft accumulate the power until ENOUGH, then wham, a nice nudge, Lather, rinse repeat to Mars1!!

Wait a sec... (4, Funny)

Lacit (909742) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225799)

I own a manufacturing plant and we just hired a guy who was so excited he would have access to our equipment...

Does your girlfriend own a cat? (4, Funny)

spineboy (22918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225861)

Oh man - sounds like fun. Interesting projects are listed below

1) See subject title. Cat + Tesla coil = fun
2)Industrial strength Twinkie testing! - Nickel plated Twinkies anyone?
3) Raw hamburger + huge charged capacitor = "Insta-cooked" hamburger
4) Use electron microscope to take picture of a cell of yours. Use inductrial fabricating machine to create 100,000x actual size copy out of rare ceramic. Proceed to chrome it. Use as object d'art.
5) Does your girlfrind have a second cat? Rapidly freeze in liquid CO2 bath, soak in acetone to remove oily fats, then chrome plate cat.
6)Make ultra hard/dense ceramic Dungeons and Dragons dice - especially the pointy, pyramidal 4sided die. Can be used as emergency caltops to escape from bad guys.
7) Make shatter proof ceramic coffe mug out of $10,000 ceramic. "Accidentally" drop off desk often, and make co-workers envious of your "lucky" cup.
8) Freeze dry rose, and gold plate. This will be useful for making up with girlfriend from steps 1 & 5
9)Make rail gun and fire magnetically plated ceramic sabot at ultra-fast frozen pumpkin. Film at high speed.
10) Use industrial kiln as personal trash incinerator.

Re:Does your girlfriend own a cat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14225991)

I remember a story a professor told in college about Ben Franklin. Apparently, in addition to playing with kites and keys in electrical storms, he also played with capacitors (well, "capacitors" back then meaning two objects with a large charge built up between them). I recall he used to cook turkeys (dead presumably) by discharging the capacitor on the turkey. One day he accidentally discharged it upon himself and was knocked unconcious, and had steam coming off of him. He recounted that it felt like being hit by hammers from all directions. Too bad they didn't have video back then, he could have been a hit on "Jack Ass".

Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14225973)

Get one of those big 1F (one Farad) or bigger Capacitors, wet your finger (don't use distilled water, though), and put it across the two leads at the top.

That one will always make your co-workers laugh.

Disclaimer: This is a joke. Never intentionally bridge the leads of a capacitor - dummy.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14226135)

Never intentionally bridge the leads of a capacitor - dummy

Uhm, what? Whenever I fix, say, a microwave oven, the first thing I do is discharge the capacitors and then short the terminals to each other and to ground and leave it that way until I'm through replacing whatever part I'm replacing.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14229847)

Thats a good way to ruin capacitors and potentially cause explosions.

The proper way is to get a high resistance and large wattage resistor and hook each end to the capacitor.

Its amazing more people don't kill themselves doing the things they do.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14231736)

What do you think "first thing I do is discharge the capacitors and then short the terminals" means, dumbass? See, the word THEN connotes a sequence of events in time. To talk at your level, it means he does one thing before the other.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14226824)

"Good ol' Grimey. [snpp.com] Whatever happened to him?

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

dragonfly_blue (101697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14236484)

Nice sig.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14230331)

OK, I did this. I found a nice old 1F capacitor. I charged it with a 1.5V battery I had sitting around. I discharged it into my hand. I'm still here. (In fact, discharging the 1F cap was about the same as discharging the battery into my hand. How could that be!?)

You must have missed the lecture where they discussed what capacitance is.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14231195)

No, I was present for that lecture. However, you Sir, must have missed one of life's most exciting lessons. I think the neer-do-wells call it "Comedy".

Try partaking in it someday - you might find it humorous. ;)

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14231660)

The problem with your comment in the present form is that you emphasize the unusually high capacitance, as though that's important to the comedic effect. Your usage implies that big capacitance == big result, when that's just not the case.

Your comment would be funny if you said something like, "Take the capacitor and plug it into the mains." That would be funny, because it's likely the capacitor would explode like a mini-grenade and take out the victim's hand. That's funny enough that I'm having to restrain myself from trying that on a pair of rather-large capacitors sitting on my desk.

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14234614)

Touche.

Your point is taken.

Now go blow up a capacitor!

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14236653)

how long was the battery attached

Re:Short one of the big giant caps... (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14243422)

> how long was the battery attached

A year... it doesn't matter because if you charge a capacitor with a 1.5V battery, you're only ever going to get 1.5V out of it.

If you charge it with 10,000V (at low current), then you get 10,000V at HIGH CURRENT out... which is why a flyback won't kill you, but caps charged with one will. FYI.

How it should be done... (1)

Alan B'Stard (936053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14241799)

The proper way to do that is to take an axial capacitor, bend the leads along opposing sides, charge it. Then throw it to an unsuspecting colleague and shout "Catch!".

A few random thoughts. (3, Informative)

munpfazy (694689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227208)

Sounds like fun. (As an aside, I'm shocked by the number of people arguing against having after hours fun with such toys. Is the slashdot readership really so cowardly and unimaginative? Sure, one has to be careful and should avoid pissing off the bosses during the first few weeks at work. And it goes without saying that if the electron microscope happens to break while you're using it for personal projects, bad things are likely to happen to you, unless you have or happen to be a particularly cool boss. But, the risk may well be worth it.)

If you've got access to a scanning electron microscope, any sample should be fun. Around here (a multi-group academic facility) the machine is jealously guarded by a dedicated staff person and we get charged rather a lot of money for each use, so I haven't done any recreational microscopy. But, just looking at the stuff we're supposed to look at is overwhelmingly nifty. (Obviously you should stop and think before putting foreign objects into either the miscroscope itself or a sputtering chamber.)

With die cutting, ceramics, and electroplating, you could certainly make some beautiful cases for homebrew projects. If you go in for a retro look, try to cook up some faux-bakelite. (Or real bakelite, for that matter, if you can get your hands on the stuff.)

Another possibility would be tinkering with electrostatic levitation. Suspended objects are always neat.

You've also got the ingredients for making homebrew optics toys. With lapping and plating gear, you might be able to make your own optical quality mirrors for homebrew telescope parts / lasers / holography setups / etc. Anything else involving precision ground metal parts and custom ceramics is an obvious candidate: home made particle detectors / geiger muller tubes, for example.

And there's always the obvious option of making really big capacitors, charging them to really high voltages, and zapping things. (As described, for example, here http://www.amasci.com/amateur/capexpt.html [amasci.com] )

Re:A few random thoughts. (2, Interesting)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14230235)

As an aside, I'm shocked by the number of people arguing against having after hours fun with such toys. Is the slashdot readership really so cowardly and unimaginative? Sure, one has to be careful and should avoid pissing off the bosses [...]

Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. I do a lot of work for startups, and I would never hire a geek that wasn't inclined to play with the toys. They should be smart enough not to break anything expensive. But if I want a job done in a perfectly regular fashion with no thinking or backtalk, I'll teach a computer to do it.

Re:A few random thoughts. (1)

webhat (558203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14234909)

Sure, one has to be careful and should avoid pissing off the bosses during the first few weeks at work.


Why? Doesn't that take all the fun out of starting a new job? Then again I am like a child always testing other people's boundries. ;)

Re:A few random thoughts. (1)

phasm42 (588479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14240175)

And there's always the obvious option of making really big capacitors, charging them to really high voltages, and zapping things.
I used to mount small caps inside of bottles with leads coming out of the lid, and then use a large cap (or sometimes straight 240VAC) to blow them up.

Finish it for them. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14227593)

http://www.railgun.org/ [railgun.org]
No updates since 2002.

Re:Finish it for them. (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247964)

A railgun like the one described on the linked site is basically a linear motor, except they use the induced magnetic field instead of having a set of magnets at 90 degree angles to the conductors.

Is there any reason that this same principal could not be used to move a conductive liquid (such as seawater)?

Re:Finish it for them. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14249645)

No, and AFAIK it's used (or at least was prototyped) in some experimental/stealth ships/submarines, in the army. If you want to shoot water in air, it will sprinkle into tiny droplets slowable over several centimeters really fast though, and you need to provide huge amounts of electricity (simply a nuclear power plant) to maintain a continuous stream. The idea is that given metal thick enough and enough electricity over time short enough you can achieve pretty much arbitrary (within reason...) speeds, so just add capacitors until the rails start melting.

Re:Finish it for them. (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14250267)

Why do you need capacitors? Wouldn't a constant application of DC provide a constant force proportional to the product of current and magnetic field strength?

Re:Finish it for them. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14252763)

Yes, it would. Just find some other home DC source of several kiloampers of current sufficient to last about a microsecond needed for the bullet to pass the rails. If you want good exit speed at the end of the relatively short rails, you must provide huge current.
The army doesn't play with capacitors, they just use a nuclear reactor to produce all the electricity they need for the sub.

Re:Finish it for them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14273531)

Why does the army need a sub?

Re:Finish it for them. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14276119)

Sorry, but that's a classified information.

Dangerous fun with Capacitors aside... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14227600)

First off, the electroplating tank:

These are a blast. Everything looks better if you electroplate it!

Any of the cool looking, under the hood gagetry for your car, found cheaply at Schuks Auto would look better in gold. Any flat sided metal object can be enhanced with whatever artwork you can make a sillouette of on your computer, print in Press-n-Peel [techniks.com] masking material
iron on, and plate.

Flatware should never be monochromatic
Your own Electron Microscope? Sweet.

The first thing to do is find the guy that's good at operating this and buy him several good lunches. Getting good images is tricky. That done, there is a world of stuff that looks better super close up, and best yet, the annoyingly black and white nature of this device lends itself to.... Yes! Electroplate sillouttes! Imagine how cool the aluminum case sides of your favorite computer would be if this [ist.utl.pt] were etched on the side. Your kids/nephews could have the coolest metal lunchboxes in the school. Like this [columbia.edu] or this [iastate.edu] or this [maths.org] or this [tamu.edu] .
A clear spray-on enamel will keep oxidation from uglying things up if your experiment with some of the more easily tarnished metals like copper and silver....

Sounds like you're in for a good time. Good luck.

Take a BIG electrolytic capacitor (1)

bbrack (842686) | more than 8 years ago | (#14228828)

and hook it up backwards...

nothing bad will happen...really







Actually, it can explode - don't actually do this, if you have a good enough power supply and capacitor you can get an explosion that's about as powerful as a hand grenade

You are probably right... (1)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14229111)

I remember the small capacitors that you can find in radio shack made a large sound that reminded me of a small hand fireworks.

Be Careful (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14230563)

The only electron microscope I've ever seen in person was at a scrap dealer, so it was an old one, but it had warning labels about radiation exposure. I got the feeling that operators needed to wear those badges that measure exposure over time. I really wanted buy the thing. I figured I could work on the electronics if needed, but wasn't sure about the condition of the vacuum pumps. It would have been a blast to see what sorts of things grow in my fridge, but the supporting console was large and very heavy and the scrap dealer was really in love with all the stainless steel.

Capacitors can be fun. Some of the small electrolytics create a nice pop, puff of smoke, and throw foil all over when they're hooked up with the polarity reversed. A variable power supply works well for that.
Also fun were some 20 kv capacitors from the high voltage section of some really ancient (50's) TVs. I'd screw them together in series with wires sticking out in between, then charge each one by rubbing my shoes on the carpet on a dry day, and putting the cap to charge between me and a grounded screw on a wall switch. When I'd go to discharge the bank of them I'd get an arc over an inch long.

Fun at age 14 without drugs, computers or video games...

I guess most of the above would get you in trouble. Stick to electroplating the family silverware?

Re:Be Careful (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14251640)

You could build your own scanning tunneling electron microsope. It doesn't seem to me that it would be too hard. The disadvantages, of course, are that you can't look at things that are as large as what you are thinking (instead of stuff from your refrigerator, think small molecules), and that it destroys the target object. The upside is that you can use it to manipulate individual atoms and create your own nanotech...

It's definatly on my list of things to do.

Electron Microscope (2, Funny)

deadweight (681827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14241613)

I used to play with one. It was fun to put quarters and pennies in it and zoom WAY in on them. The "owners" of it needed me to fix the attached computer and were happy to let me screw around with it if I could keep it running. I do remember that you had to put liquid nitrogen in it every so often. I found out why they let me "play" with it everyday - I was keeping it full for them and when the liquind nitrogen spilled it landed on me and I was the one hoping around going OH F#CK and they were the ones laughing. Speaking of which, if some roaches come out put the nitrogen on them and YOU will laugh and the roaches won't!!!! Mandatory safety warning - If you spill enough nitrogen on the wrong part of you it won't be funny. That sh!t is cold.
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