Electronics > Microcontrollers

Low power project ideas

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I ordered the MSP430 and some solar panels to create some kind of simple project. The problem is that I can't think of anything useful and yet relatively simple project... So I'm asking you for suggestions for a project. BTW I happened to like very much the CCS compiler that I used to make simple led blinkers. You can really see what is happening inside the µC.

My aim is to learn something about lowpower stuff I guess. TI's controllers seemed very efficient in that perspective. Without any powersaving it kept running for 3 weeks blinking the onboard red and green LED's. That was with two AA sized Eneloop batteries.

When I have an idea for a project, it usually has some sort of wireless communication link and I think I don't have the guts yet to accomplish a project with that complexity. So if you have an idea worth doing, bring it on!

Regards: Kodon ::)

MSP430's according to them are ultra low power devices ...  ::)
Their EZ-430Chronos Watch is a prime example of what a watch can be ...  :-[
Microcontrolled and very low power .

But you can use a MSP430 to ,
how about a MSP430 temperature and humidity logger ?

Here are some things that I've had on my "list":

1) Consider the cheap solar-powered garden light.  It has a small solar cell that charges a small battery during the day, and a photocell that detects "night" and turns on an LED.

Now, the ones I have are pretty stupid.  They need that photocell even though both the solar cell and the LED could be used as light sensing devices.  They tend to go on at dusk, well before they are needed, and as a result use up a significant part of their charge before it even gets dark.  These are things that could be fixed by adding a low power microcontroller and some pretty simple code.  For the more advanced experiment, I'd think a microcontroller could implement a more efficient switching supply for the LED, too...

2) Consider  the "BEAM Robotics" "Solar Engine."  For these, a solar cell charges a large capacitor until some threshold voltage is reached, and then permits the cap to discharge though a motor or other circuitry.  This is usually done using some clever analog circuitry.  That circuitry frequently involves a "voltage detector" like the panasonic 1381x.  But that IC has a fixed voltage threshold and is about as expensive as the low-end MSP430s.  Could an MSP430 be a replacement (using a combination of the internal brownout circuitry, and active monitoring?)

3) Can you do "small wind power" energy harvesting devices using (for example) a HDD spindle motor and a child's pinwheel?  Perhaps getting enough power to periodically report wind speed?

4) how about a device that I can put in a prospective solar-power location with a prospective solar cell, and will record just how much power I get over a given day?

Nice thoughts :)

Yes, I have the Chronos watch also.

I almost ordered a bunch of supercaps for trying to make a device that does not need any external battery ::) But then again, I have a heap on unused Eneloops lying aroud so why not use them...

The solar cells are spec'd 3.6V and 210mA @ max so I could charge the batteries with some schotcky diodes.

The garden light could use the µC's internal Real Time Clock and shut down at midnight. I have a street lamp outside my window and it drives me nuts when I leave my window blinds open.

Which brings me to an idea of automatized shade blinder :) Solar cell detects if the sun is rising and opens the blinds, and then again at midnight it closes them allowing me to sleep. Waking up is a nicer experience (according to Philps marketing department) when you get a real daylight. Formerly I was planning to make a wakeuplight but that one nevere made it... Anyway that would require a small DC motor to turn on and off the blinds. If the solarcell charges the batteries enough, it could maybe actuate itself twice a day and then just collect more energy.

While testing the solarcells, I noticed that sunlight is much more efficient powersource than artificial lighting (lightbulb, LED etc). So it could be possible to detect just sunlight apart from the street lamp. And by the way the lamp shuts down at 2 o'clock at night time. >:(

but anyways, great ideas... keep 'em coming!

PS: this lowpower thingy was actually pretty interesting, 6 or 7 months back I made a temperature sensing wireless node with Arduino and HopeRF radios. It sends the temperature of my sauna so I can check it while being in computer :) The batteries ran out just few days ago. It was an interesting project also.

hmm, makes me wonder if there is something even lower power.. something i am designing has to have a total system consumption under 1mW


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