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The Easter Solar Engine


by TinkerJim on November 9, 2009

Table of Contents
The Easter Solar Engine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Intro: The Easter Solar Engine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 1: Easter Engine Circuit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 2: Stripboard Layout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 3: Trigger Voltages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 4: Capacitors, Motors, and Solar Cells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 5: External Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 6: Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Step 7: NPN Easter Engine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Advertisements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Author:TinkerJim
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics.

Intro: The Easter Solar Engine


A Solar Engine is a circuit that takes in and stores electrical energy from solar cells, and when a predetermined amount has accumulated, it switches on to drive a motor
or other actuator. A solar engine is not really an 'engine' in itself, but that is its name by established usage. It does provide motive force, and does work in a repeating
cycle, so the name is not a complete misnomer. Its virtue is that it provides usable mechanical energy when only meager or weak levels of sunlight, or artificial room light,
are present. It harvests or gathers, as it were, bunches of low grade energy until there is enough for an energy giving meal for a motor. And when the motor has
expended the serving of energy, the solar engine circuit goes back into its gathering mode. It is an ideal way to intermittently power models, toys, or other small gadgets
on very low light levels.
It is a great idea which was first thought up and reduced to practice by one Mark Tilden, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He came up with an elegantly
simple two-transistor solar engine circuit that made tiny solar powered robots possible.
Since then, a number of enthusiasts have thought up solar engine circuits with various features and improvements. The one described herein has proven itself to be very
versatile and robust. It is named after the day on which its circuit diagram was finalized and entered into the author's Workshop Notebook, Easter Sunday, 2001. Over
the years since, the author has made and tested several dozen in various applications and settings. It works well in low light or high, with large storage capacitors or
small. And the circuit uses only common discrete electronic components: diodes, transistors, resistors and a capacitor.
This Instructable describes the basic Easter Engine circuit, how it works, construction suggestions, and shows some applications. A basic familiarity with electronics and
soldering up circuits is assumed. If you haven't done anything like this but are eager to have a go, it would be well to first tackle something simpler. You might try the The
FLED Solar Engine in Instructables or the "Solar Powered Symet" described in the book "Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels", which is an excellent introduction to
making projects such as this one.

Image Notes
1. When a predetermined level of energy has been collected in the capacitor, the
Easter engine circuit switches on, connecting the motor to the capacitor for a brief
run.
2. This solar cell collects useful energy at low light levels.
3. After the motor has run a bit on the stored energy, the circuit disconnects itself
from the motor, or other load device, so the capacitor can recharge and the cycle
can repeat.
4. Energy from the solar cell is stored in this capacitor.

Image Notes
1. The Easter engine circuit uses only a few resistors, diodes, and three
transistors.

Step 1: Easter Engine Circuit


This is the schematic diagram for the Easter engine together with a list of the electronic components that make it up. The design of the circuit was inspired by the
"Micropower Solar Engine" by Ken Huntington and the "Suneater I" by Stephen Bolt. In common with them, the Easter engine has a two-transistor trigger-and-latch
section, but with a slightly different resistor network interconnecting them. This section consumes very little power in itself when activated, but allows enough current to be
taken out to drive a single transistor that switches on a typical motor load.
Here is how the Easter engine works. Solar cell SC slowly charges up the storage capacitor C1. Transistors Q1 and Q2 form a latching trigger. Q1 is triggered on when
the voltage of C1 reaches the level of conductance through the diode string D1-D3. With two diodes and one LED as shown in the diagram, the trigger voltage is about
2.3V, but more diodes can be inserted to raise this level if desired.
When Q1 turns on, the base of Q2 is pulled up through R4 to turn it on also. Once it is on, it maintains base current via R1 through Q1 to keep it on. The two transistors
are thus latched on until the supply voltage from C1 falls to around 1.3 or 1.4V.
When both Q1 and Q2 are latched on, the base of the "power" transistor QP is pulled down through R3, turning it on to drive the motor M, or other load device. Resistor
R3 also limits the base current though QP, but the value shown is adequate to turn the load on hard enough for most purposes. If a current of more than say 200mA to
the load is desired, R3 can be reduced and a heavier duty transistor can be used for QP, such as a 2N2907. The values of the other resistors in the circuit were chosen
(and tested) to limit the current used by the latch to a low level.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Step 2: Stripboard Layout


A very compact embodiment of the Easter engine can be constructed on ordinary stripboard as shown in this illustration. This is a view from the component side with the
copper strip tracks below shown in gray. The board is only 0.8" by 1.0", and only four of the tracks must be cut as shown by the white circles in the tracks.
The circuit depicted here has one green LED D1 and two diodes D2 and D3 in the trigger string for a turn-on voltage of about 2.5V. The diodes are positioned upright with
the cathode end upward, that is, oriented toward the negative bus strip on the right hand edge of the board. An additional diode can be easily installed in place of the
jumper shown from D1 to D2 to bump up the turn-on point.
The turn-off voltage can also be raised as described in the next step.
Of course, other board formats can be used. The fourth photo below shows an Easter engine built on a small general purpose prototyping board. It is not as compact and
orderly as the stripboard layout, but on the other hand it leaves lots of room for working, and space for adding diodes or multiple storage capacitors. One could also use
just plain perforated phenolic board with the necessary connections wired and soldered below.

Image Notes
1. Less than one square inch when built on stripboard.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Image Notes
1. This is an Easter engine built on a DATAK "Experimenter's I. C. Protoboard" .
Radio Shack supplies a similar board (#276-159).

Step 3: Trigger Voltages


This table shows the approximate turn-on voltages for various combinations of diodes and LEDs that have been tried in the the trigger string of various Easter engines. All
of these trigger combinations can be fit onto the stripboard layout of the previous step, but the 4-diode and 1 LED combination would have to have a diode-to-diode joint
soldered above the board.
The LEDs used in making the table measurements were older low intensity reds. Most other newer red LEDs that have been tried work about the same, with maybe a
variation of only about plus or minus 0.1V in their trigger level. Color has an influence: a green LED gave a trigger level of about 0.2V higher than a comparable red. A
white LED with no diodes in series gave a turn-on point of 2.8V. Flashing LEDs are not appropriate for this engine circuit.
A useful feature of the Easter engine is that the turning-off voltage can be raised without affecting the turning-on level by inserting one or more diodes in series with the
base of Q2. With a single 1N914 diode connected from the junction of R4 and R5 to the base of Q2, the circuit turns off when the voltage drops to around 1.9 or 2.0V.
With two diodes, the turn-off voltage measured approximately 2.5V; with three diodes, it turned off at about 3.1V. On the stripboard layout, the diode or diode string can
be located in place of the jumper shown above the resistor R5; the second illustration below shows one diode D0 thus installed. Note that the cathode end must go to the
base of Q2.
Thus it is possible to effectively use the Easter engine with motors that do not run well near the basic turn-off of about 1.3 or 1.4V. The solar engine in the toy SUV in the
photos was made to turn on at 3.2V and turn off at 2.0V because in that voltage range the motor has good power.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Image Notes
1. Diode D0 installed here raises the turn-off voltage of the circuit.

Image Notes
1. This toy "Jeepster" SUV has been driving in circles on our living room floor for
years.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Image Notes
1. Controlling the SUV is an Easter engine with a 1 Farad storage capacitor.

Step 4: Capacitors, Motors, and Solar Cells


The capacitor used in the toy SUV is like the one shown on the left in the illustration below. It is a full 1 Farad rated for use at up to 5V. For lighter duty applications or
shorter motor runs, smaller capacitors give shorter cycle times and, of course, shorter runs. The voltage listed on a capacitor is the maximum voltage to which it should
be charged; exceeding that rating shortens the life of the capacitor. Many of the super capacitors intended specifically for memory backup have a higher internal
resistance and so do not release their energy rapidly enough to drive a motor.
A solar engine such as the Easter engine is fine for driving motors that have an internal static resistance of about 10 Ohms or more. The most common variety of toy
motors have much lower internal resistance (2 Ohms is typical) and so will drain all the energy from the storage capacitor before the motor can really get going. The
motors shown in the second photo below all work fine. They can often be found as surplus or new from electronic suppliers. Suitable motors can also be found in junked
tape recorders or VCRs. They can usually be singled out as having a diameter larger than its length.
Choose a solar cell or cells that will provide a voltage somewhat higher than the turn-on point of your engine under the light levels that your application will see. The real
beauty of the solar engine is that it can collect low grade apparently useless energy and then release it in useful doses. They are most impressive when, from just sitting
on a desk or coffee table or even on the floor, they suddenly pop to life. If you want your engine to work indoors, or on cloudy days, or in the shade as well as in the open,
use cells designed for indoor use. These cells are usually of the amorphous thin film on glass variety. They give a healthy voltage under low light, and the current
corresponds to the illumination level and their size. Solar calculators use this kind of cell, and you can take them from old (or new!) calculators, but they are quite small
these days and so their current output is low. The voltage of calculator cells ranges from 1.5 up to 2.5 volts in low light, and about a half a volt more in the sun. You'll want
a number of them connected in series-parallel. Wire Glue is excellent for attaching fine wire leads to these glass cells. Some solar rechargeable keychain flashlights have
a large cell that works well indoors with solar engines. At the present time, Images SI Inc. carries new indoor cells of a size suitable for directly driving a solar engine from
a single cell. Their "outdoor" solar cell of the same type works quite well indoors as well.
More commonly available from many sources is the crystalline or polycrystalline type of solar cell. These types put out a lot of current in sunshine, but are specifically
intended for life in the sun. Some do modestly well in lower light, but most are pretty dismal in a room lit by flourescents.

Image Notes
1. This junked CD drive unit has two motors that are good candidates for driving
with a solar engine circuit. This is one of them.
2. This looks like another motor suitable for a solar engine driver.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Step 5: External Connections


To make the connections from the circuit board to the solar cell and motor, pin tail sockets taken from inline strips are very convenient. The pin sockets can be easily
emancipated from the plastic setting in which they come by careful use of nippers. The tails can be snipped off after the pins are soldered in the board.
Solid 24 gage wire plugs into the sockets nice and secure, but usually externals are connected via flexible stranded hookup wire. The same sockets can be soldered to
the ends of these wires to serve as little "plugs" that fit into the sockets on board beautifully.
Board sockets can also be provided into which the storage capacitor can be plugged. It can mount directly into the sockets, or be remotely located and connected via wire
leads plugged to the board. This makes it possible to easily change and try different capacitors until the best one is found for the application and its average lighting
conditions. After the best value of C1 is found, it still can be permanently soldered in place, but rarely has this been found necessary if good quality sockets are used.

Image Notes
1. Single-in-line sockets (SIPs) are supplied embedded in plastic strips. With
care and a little practice, the plastic body can be carefully cracked away with
nippers to release individual sockets.

Image Notes
1. Some styles of sockets will require enlarging the holes in the circuit board to
get a firm fit. This can be easily done by hand with a drill bit held in a pin vise.

Image Notes
1. This underside view shows a socket properly fitted in the board prior to
soldering. The excess pin tail can be clipped off.

Image Notes
1. This is a partly finished Easter engine showing the sockets and some of the
electronic components soldered in place. The red and blue marks on the board
identify the positive and negative connection points for the solar cell and the
storage capacitor. The black marks indicate where the copper strips have been
cut away on the underside.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Image Notes
1. The is how the underside of the circuit board looks at this stage.

Step 6: Applications
Perhaps our favorite application of an Easter engine is in the toy Jeepster SUV illustrated in Step 3. A thin plywood bottom was cut to fit the body, and large foam wheels
were made to give it a "Monster Wheel" look, but in operation it is quite docile. The underside is shown in the photo below. The axles are set to make the car run in a tight
circle (because we have a small living room) and the front wheel drive setup greatly helps it stick to the intended circular path. The gear train was taken from a
commercial hobby motor unit shown in the next photo, but it was fitted out with a 13 Ohm motor.
A 1 Farad super capacitor gives the car about 10 seconds of run time each cycle, which takes it almost completely around a 3 foot diameter circle. It takes a while to
charge up on cloudy days or when the car happens to stop in a dark spot. Anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes is usual during the day in our living room. If it finds direct
sunlight coming in a window, it recharges in about two minutes. It travels around in a corner of the room and has logged many revolutions since being built in 2004.
Another amusing application of the Easter engine is "Walker", a robot-like creature that waddles along by means of two arms, or rather, legs. He uses the same motor
and gear train setup as the Jeepster with the same 76:1 ratio. One of his legs is purposely shorter than the other so that he walks in a circle. Walker also carries a
blinking LED so we know where he is on the floor after dark.
An simple use for a solar engine is as a flag waver or spinner. The one shown in the 5th photo below can sit on a desk or shelf and every now and then it will suddenly,
and rather wildly, spin a little ball around on a string thereby attracting attention to itself. Some embodiments of these simple spinners had a jingle bell on the string.
Others had a stationary bell mounted nearby so that it would get smacked by the flailing ball - but that tends to become annoying after a few sunny days!

Image Notes
1. The gear train for Walker came from this kit.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Image Notes
1. This Jeep is the younger brother of old red. It has smaller wheels and the gear
ratio is correspondingly lower.
2. This LED blinks all night so that we know where the car has stopped for the
night and won't accidentally step on it (horrible thought!) in the dark.

Image Notes
1. "Walker" spends every day alternately soaking up sun and hobbling around
in circles.

Image Notes
1. Tucked neatly away in the base of the spinner is an Easter engine with a
10000 microFarad storage capacitor.

Image Notes
1. The solar cell powering this spinner came from a keychain flashlight.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Step 7: NPN Easter Engine


The Easter engine can also be made in the complementary or 'dual' version, with two NPN transistors and one PNP. The complete schematic is shown in the first
illustration here. The stripboard layout can have the same component locations and the same track cuts as the first or 'PNP' version, the essential changes being
switched transistor types and reversed polarity of the solar cell, storage capacitor, diodes and LEDs. The NPN stripboard layout is shown in the second illustration and
incorporates an extra diode D4 for a higher turn-on voltage, and a diode D0 from the base of transistor Q2 to the junction of resistors R4 and R5 for a higher turn-off
voltage as well.

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http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

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Comments
50 comments Add Comment

MichaW says:

view all 62 comments


Nov 21, 2014. 12:27 AM REPLY

I am not sure which way to put in the diode an led. Maybe you could clearify? thanks

TinkerJim says:

Nov 21, 2014. 12:49 PM REPLY


The schematic in Step 1 is clear on these points. You just have to distinguish the anode from the cathode ends on the diodes and leds you want to use.
The cathode end of a diode is usually marked with a band. The cathode side of an led is usually indicated by a flat portion on the lens.
The references cited in the Intro step will be very helpful for questions such as these. In any event, put the circuit together on a solderless breadboard to
make sure everything is working correctly before you warm up the soldering iron.

atilladolphun says:

Sep 13, 2014. 4:11 PM REPLY

oh fun now to see if i can combine that circut with a crystal battery to make it build a larger cap for a flashlight.

hparikh1 says:

Jun 7, 2014. 4:42 AM REPLY

what are the equipments to make this? can u give me the list?

tbudka says:

Mar 18, 2014. 6:10 PM REPLY


My daughter and I made this circuit together on a breadboard. It worked well. We tried it with a vibrating motor from a cell-phone and found we needed to
raise to turn-off voltage since the motor stopped spinning around 1.8V. You already had instructions for doing that on your nicely documented design.
Thanks so much for this nice and well documented post.

TinkerJim says:

Mar 27, 2014. 9:29 AM REPLY

It's so good to hear from a Father and daughter working together on a gadget like this ! Thank you for letting us know !!

baudeagle says:

Feb 12, 2014. 8:59 AM REPLY


I was this article today on Reddit : http://www.ohgizmo.com/2010/01/09/ces2010-rca-airn... I think that with your Easter engine design combined the
information found here: http://hight3ch.com/free-electricity-from-thin-air... this could make a nice home made cell phone charger. What do you think?

ZJ-Weaver says:

Jun 26, 2013. 12:00 PM REPLY


Hi Tinker Jim. Awesome project. I'm working on a circuit to run nitinol SMA wires. A question: Does the power to the load flow from the solar panel or from
the capacitor?

TinkerJim says:

Jul 1, 2013. 8:08 AM REPLY


The solar cell and the capacitor are connected in parallel, so when transistor QP turns on, both deliver power to the load. However, unless the solar cell
is relatively large or in bright sunlight, most of the power driving the load will come from the capacitor.

ZJ-Weaver says:

Jul 1, 2013. 10:16 AM REPLY

Understood. Thank you for the reply!

Sassah122 says:

May 9, 2013. 11:29 PM REPLY

hi

ynze says:

Mar 11, 2013. 11:33 AM REPLY

Hi TinkerJim,
Thanks a lot for this I'ble! I spent the last days building solar engines, and yours gave me the final push to start it. I tried your circuit first of course. Later I
built the "original" Sun Eater I (and it turned out it was made by a fellow countryman of mine :-)).
When comparing, I find the Sun Eater more efficient ("lively") than your circuit, but has more components as a trade-off. Is that your finding too?
Anyways, thanks a lot for your very well documented I'ble!
Ynze

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

TinkerJim says:

Mar 16, 2013. 4:46 PM REPLY


Thank you for your comments on the Easter Solar Engine. I too made a SunEater and was very much pleased with it (in fact it was the inspiration for the
Easter engine as mentioned in the Instructable) and it is still working daily on a windowsill!
As to your queries regarding "efficiency" and/or "liveliness", the two terms can take in quite a few different meanings. Efficiency would most precisely
mean the ratio of energy delivered to the motor to the energy collected in the storage capacitor from the solar cell This is easy to quantify. But the word
could also be used more loosely to refer to how short the operating cycle seems to be, that is, how frequently the device activates and goes through its
on-off cycles. The word "lively" could also very well refer to this activation frequency. Or more simply,liveliness could mean the rapidity or strength of the
way the motor snaps into action when it does turn on. These are quite different things, but we are apt to use the words "efficient" and "lively" for any or all
of these characteristics in an interchangeable casual way.
The most important condition in attempting to make any sort of general comparative declaration, is that both circuits must be set up to have the same
turn-on and turn-off voltages. Otherwise, the energy exchanges with the storage capacitor could be too different to draw any meaningful conclusions.
This is most important because the energy stored in a capacitor is proportional to the square of the voltage across its terminals: Es = (1/2) C (V^2).
Thus a small difference in voltage represents a much larger difference in energies.
Now if both solar engines are set up with the exact same turn-on and turn-off voltages, then they will be practically equally "lively". First, they will both
collect solar energy for the same time before firing; this is because both circuits pass no current until the trigger strings conduct and turn on the first
transistor. They will not run a load for exactly the same time, but if both have the same turn-off voltages, the difference will be small in typical
applications. The difference arises precisely because the SunEater has a dual transistor output switch; these are set up as a complimentary pair which
functions as a very high gain transistor. Hence, only a tiny current is needed to turn the pair on and they turn on hard (this could also be the "liveliness"
you are impressed with). The single output transistor of the Easter Solar engine takes more current in the circuitry to turn a motor on (e.g. at 2.9V turnon, the 3.3K resistor passes about 0.5mA into the base - note that this resistor can be increased to give a softer run to the motor, or decreased to give a
more jolting or lively start).
Now, if the current draw of the output device for the two solar engines were the same and say constant, the SunEater would yield more on-time because
less current is used in its circuitry to keep it on, making more available for the load to use up. But then on the other hand, the Easter Solar engine would
go through its charge-run cycle more often than the SunEater!
Alas, the situation with a motor as the load is far more complicated! When a motor at rest is switched on from a voltage source, it takes a lot of
instantaneous current, and then less and less as it gains speed. A capacitor is more than willing, eager in fact, to supply its energy at high current levels,
so a lot of energy can be used up just in getting things moving. This would shorten the on-time.

Avasar10000 says:

Dec 6, 2011. 11:05 AM REPLY

Can you provide some websites that stock the SIP's? Thank you!

TinkerJim says:

Dec 8, 2011. 9:22 AM REPLY


All the major electronics supply houses carry them, and I think many of the specialty and surplus electronics sellers do also.

BC-45 says:

Feb 21, 2011. 1:25 PM REPLY

what kind of electronic can i find those kind of capacitors?

arduinoboy says:

Sep 14, 2011. 10:59 AM REPLY

Most stuff have big enough caps to work in this.


Look for old VCRs, Tape players, ect.
The audio amps inside of these most of the time have big capacitors.
It looks like in the first picture he is using a super cap.
Just use any caps that say "1000uf" or bigger.

wildfire8 says:
Where are some videos of these working?

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

Apr 23, 2011. 11:05 AM REPLY

TinkerJim says:

Apr 25, 2011. 11:05 AM REPLY

I haven't made videos of these working.

Purple Guy says:

Mar 27, 2011. 10:11 AM REPLY

As I am pretty much a beginner at electronics I was wondering:


Is their any way to make a more simple trigger which uses less components?
I want to be able to adapt it to suit my, simpler, needs and I don't really understand some of the circuit.
Thanks in advance to who-ever answers.

TinkerJim says:

Mar 28, 2011. 9:33 AM REPLY

You can find a lot of straightforward information on various solar engine circuits at the following site:
http://library.solarbotics.net/circuits/se_t1.html

Purple Guy says:

Apr 1, 2011. 11:54 AM REPLY

Thanks!

TinkerJim says:

Apr 2, 2011. 9:59 AM REPLY

Also, the book I mentioned in the Easter Engine Instructable,


"Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels" by Dave Hrynkiw & Mark W. Tilden
is a very good one for beginners in Beam Technology.
Another good introductory book in more general robot making is
"Robot Building for Beginners" by David Cook.
And for a hands-on introduction to making electronics gadgets of all kinds, you couldn't do better than
"Make: Electronics" by Charles Platt.

Mudbud says:

Feb 21, 2011. 10:58 AM REPLY


Wow this is great! I can't wait to build one of my own, won't be for a while though cause my allowance is only 5 bucks a month :/
I'm making a new ible based off this!

Computothought says:

Jan 18, 2011. 3:25 PM REPLY

cool. I might try that with an earth battery also.

TinkerJim says:

Jan 22, 2011. 10:34 AM REPLY


Earth batteries should be a suitable source from which an Easter Solar Engine could collect usable energy. You'll need enough earth batteries hooked in
series to offer a voltage slightly higher than the turn-on voltage of the Easter engine.

Computothought says:

Jan 22, 2011. 5:09 PM REPLY


Did some experiments and was surprised at the amount of voltage generated. A whole backyard of cells might be very interesting. Have to go get
some resistors tomorrow and build the engine.

GreenD says:

Jan 3, 2010. 3:41 PM REPLY

haha look at that old school led in pic #4.


Ok so, just in general what type of diodes can you use for this?? How do you figure out the voltage required for diodes?? Sorry I'm noob!

TinkerJim says:

Jan 4, 2010. 8:18 AM REPLY


Instead of being thrown out as being too dim and unwanted, the old LEDs are quite happy to be put to work in trigger strings!
The very common small signal diode 1N914 are the ones I use. They work fine for this low voltage low current application.

zer0_da_hero says:

Jan 20, 2011. 7:22 PM REPLY


Let me start by saying this is gadget with so many uses it's amazing. I'm also a noob so I have to ask. How can I tell the voltage of a random LED I
find in old electronics? What can of test can I do to an LED?

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

TinkerJim says:

Jan 22, 2011. 10:43 AM REPLY


To test LEDs for Easter Engine use, I just make up the whole circuit first on a solderless breadboard. With a Volt meter hooked up to the storage
capacitor, I just note when the engine circuit cycles on and off. If it's not what is wanted, I just plug in a different LED or two.

jensenr30 says:

Jan 20, 2011. 11:48 AM REPLY

subscribed!! 5 star! great project, man!

TinkerJim says:

Jan 22, 2011. 10:35 AM REPLY

Thanks !

Waren-Neutron says:

Nov 13, 2010. 11:30 PM REPLY

such a nice job friend

Waren-Neutron says:

Oct 6, 2010. 1:05 AM REPLY

your brain is holymoly

Waren-Neutron says:

Oct 6, 2010. 1:03 AM REPLY

it is best

caret says:

May 20, 2010. 10:33 AM REPLY

Hi! what program did you use to draw the board above??? Sorry my bad English :D
Thanks in advance!!!

TinkerJim says:

May 21, 2010. 7:19 AM REPLY

It was done in VectorWorks.

Tigrezno says:

May 5, 2010. 3:30 PM REPLY

Why are you using a "double latching" system? That part is not clear to me.
Is it possible to remove Q2?

TinkerJim says:

May 6, 2010. 7:14 AM REPLY


It is not a double latch. It is a single latch formed by two transistors. Each transistor in the pair is set up to feed the base of the other. In that way, once
the first transistor turns on, even a little, the second one gets turned on by it, and then it in turn turns on the first even more, and then the first turns on the
second even more, and so on.Thus both transistors find themselves locked on. This condition persists until the supply voltage drops below the combined
diode drop inherent in the transistors. Now read Step 1 again and follow along in the circuit diagram and it should be clear.

Robootzz says:

Feb 17, 2010. 1:24 AM REPLY


Hello! im trying to build this one myself. but i come across some problems, so i hope i can get some help. ive built it up like this, but my capacitor wont stop
recharging. it just keeps going and going. i suppose it has to do with the diodestring. however i have the components that it says in the circuit. and is it true,
that the more resistance i have in that string, the more the capacitor will charge?
thanks

TinkerJim says:

Feb 17, 2010. 7:20 PM REPLY


It might be that the solar cell isn't producing a voltage high enough to trigger the diode string. Measure the voltage output of the cell you are using and
make sure it is at least half a volt above the diode string trigger voltage as listed in the table in Step 3. You can also try fewer or different diodes in the
string. It could be also that the circuit has triggered but the capacitor has a high internal resistance not allowing it to drive the motor but just slowly drain
through it - this happens with capacitors that are intended for memory backup. I often test solar engine circuits by feeding from batteries through a
resistor - about 1 or 2K. Monitor the voltage at the capacitor to get a better idea of what is happening. If you still have trouble, send a photo if you can or
a sketch of your circuit setup with the values and types of components you are using.

Robootzz says:

Feb 18, 2010. 2:56 AM REPLY


thanks for the input. yeah, i think the solar cell is too weak. therefore ive tried with a battery, to just load the capacitor, and the see how the drain
goes. and its like you said, it drains sloooow. but it seems to just drain, and never stop. what decides when the capacitor should charge again? cant
seem to figure that out.

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/

TinkerJim says:

Feb 18, 2010. 8:46 AM REPLY


The circuit will recycle when the voltage across the capacitor drops below 1.3 or 1.4 volts as described in Step 1. If yours is not turning off, it
means the supply current is exceeding the output current. Increase the resistance in your battery feed enough, and the circuit will cycle. Of
course this assumes a suitable capacitor. Look at Step 4 to see what kind work well in solar engines. The caps must have a low ESR value like
the Powerstor PA series. Look at www.mouser.com/powerstor and get a PA-5R0V224R or PA-5R0v474R - these work great in all solar
engines. The motor must be right also -Step 4 for more details again. If you still have problems, go to the Intro Step and look into the FLED or
Symet solar engines to gain more experience.

Robootzz says:

Feb 24, 2010. 11:52 AM REPLY


tried to pm you, but it wont work. very nice. although i have one problem. everything works like a charm, until the capacitor should begin to
discharge. i have a voltage over the load, but it wont drop (not even if i short circuit it). nothing ive tried have worked.

TinkerJim says:

Feb 25, 2010. 2:47 PM REPLY


What does "tried to pm you" mean? To send a private message? That would be the best way to handle your problem, but I don't know
how to initiate that. Maybe you can explain how to do it

Robootzz says:

Feb 25, 2010. 3:35 PM REPLY


yes. i tried to take this over the "private message" system. but i couldnt. it wouldnt send. so instead i wrote to you here. the problem is
that the capacitor wont discharge. i have the components you have, but there seems to be a problem with the discharging part. as i
said i have a voltage over the load ( a motor). but it wont drive, and the capacitor wont discharge.

gangeya says:

Jan 7, 2010. 11:36 AM REPLY


Your 'structable was great, infact it was awesome!
I too had been working on a SolarEngine n was confused regarding many points. I need someone to prove my points regarding motor selection and turn on
voltage. And you did it so very neatly!
Keep up the good work!

egbertfitzwilly says:

Jan 3, 2010. 5:17 PM REPLY


Thank you for an excellent instructable. If I used a toroid instead of a capacitor at C1 can I integrate a joule thief circuit to get power amplification? Is there a
benefit to doing that? Could I put rechargeable batteries in this circuit and get 24 hour operation?

TinkerJim says:

Jan 4, 2010. 8:06 AM REPLY


The circuit would not act as a Joule thief with a toroid in place of C1. However, you could use a Joule Thief as a source for a solar engine, that is, in
place of the solar cell. Instead of connecting the Joule Thief to an LED, make the connections to the solar engine through a diode and a maybe a
resistor. It would supply the solar engine and you could thus operate a motor - intermittently - from a very weak battery.
Are you asking if a rechargeable battery could replace C1? The tight range of voltage variation would make it hard to set up. There are other circuits to
solar charge batteries and then have them work at night or with say a 555 timer.

view all 62 comments

http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Easter-Solar-Engine/