Electronics Recycling Info

Let me vent, briefly. My first cell phone was a mobile phone. Mobile, as in car phone. Car phone, as in ‘you can make calls from this faux leather bag that sits on the passenger seat with this gigantic handset’ apparatus. No kidding. The bonus to that phone, and to the candy bar Nokia phones that I had after that gem, was in the unit’s reliability. Believe me, I did my fair share of stress testing those first cellies…I was using those things, and using them hard.

At some point along the way, mobile phones became disposable. Whereas you could probably still dig a Motorola StarTac out of your junk bin and power it on, an LG from three years ago would be absolutely worthless. Likely, it would be problematic within the first few months.

To combat this, companies like Verizon jumped all over a marketing plan for ‘new in two’ and similar schemes…wherein you look forward to getting a shiny new phone…often after your buggy unit started acting up out of the gate. Distraction? Yes.

Term of the day: planned obsolescence.

Stuff fails, which is fine, but the whole idea of moving products often shows itself on the back side of things. What to do with old electronics?

old electronical components
man lab is full of scraps

My workspace is full of old components. I am big into the ‘REUSE” side of the triple Rs. I can (and do) pull all sorts of awesome junk off of a scrapped piece of tech. But when that is done, one must figure out the whole electronics recycling aspect of the deal. There is a reason not to throw out an old tower or television…several chemical reasons, in fact.

The big reason we see computer recycling companies is not for them to turn a profit selling used wares. There are lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and bromine en mass in old components…good example being those wonky old CRT televisions and computer monitors that are quickly being replaced. Can’t exactly introduce that into a standard landfill. Those companies are keeping the lights on by grabbing usable components, true, but are doing better by selling the copper, steel, and plastic that they can reap from recycled goods. Win/win.

Hit one of those links to see an example of how this is done (and done well.) If you don’t take me up on that advice, don’t toss your old electronics in the trash out of principle. All of that solder is mostly lead, and circuit boards are swimming in solder.

Arduino Solar Cell Input

Here we go. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m horsing around with analog input to my Arduino, in the form of input via a solar cell. For the win. It turns out, that I’m getting far better with my casual electronics experimentation…I will chalk this one up as a win.

My basic set-up is this…Radio Shack solar cell, breadboard, florescent light source, Arduino, and a notebook.

Step 1) gauge light source via multimeter.

one point twenty-one gigawatts

1.7 V…no need to toss in a resister, as the Arduino can handle 5V without issue. Good to go.

Step 2) Interface with Arduino via breadboard.

breadless soldierboard

This could have been a direct setup, but for the sake of not soldering a solid lead to my solar cell array, I chose to twist the crap out of the existing + and – leads of the wire outs on the unit, and cram them into the breadboard. USB connected to the Arduino, of course

Step 3) Chop in some code for the Arduino. This was the tricky part…not that tricky, however:

~~code snippet time~~

void setup() {
Serial.begin(9600); }
void loop() {
int v = analogRead(0);
Serial.print(‘ ‘);

~~~end code snippet time~~~


Note the lack of comments? I’m a flipping math dude, so that is wholly optional in my book. Long story short, Wiring is a stripped cousin of C++…I have to void setup and loop here, since I am not concerned with anything once I let ‘er rip. I will touch on the programming specifics at a later date, but inquiring minds can find this info quite easily on the Arduino project’s main page, or on Wikipedia. Knock your socks off. I added the delay for sake of real-time monitoring, and matched the baud rate to which I had configured my USB connection. ttyUSB0 would be that in question…9600 would be the rate.

Step 4) Read input via serial monitor.

those figures average out to 'awesome'

As you can see, it is pretty much constant, with some fluctuation due to my set-up. Noisy, yes. Cheap components, yes.

Step 5) Testing ‘zero’ state. Here, I have employed my box of smokes. American Spirit Lights, to be precise.

Yellow Box of American Spirits...A Labritory Must-Have

Step 6) Gauge system.

Here, I’m altering between ‘on’ and ‘off’ states. I start with the ‘off’ (smokes on solar panel) configuration for a time, remove the box to open the system to ‘max input’ for appx 7 secs, and then place the box to remove the input energy.

for the goddamned win

Most definitely for the win…with the experimental noise, that could be considered effectively zero. For the win.

In summation, I have read in analog, as intended. Lessons learned? Pretty straight forward I suppose. My cheap-o solar cell is rated for a max of 6V, which I was far under. If I was to use this setup with a stronger light source, I would need to take this into consideration. I didn’t perform any data transformation, as I was not concerned with ‘actual voltage input values’ in this case…merely relative. Most importantly, I was able to knock out the task I had set out to do. Hopefully, I can ride my EE high and get cranking on something awesome, like a netbook robot. With some lasers.

+1 Nerd

My Arduino is in da houze!

+1 Nerd

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform…and it is awesome. I went for the Arduino Duemilanove, packaged nicely with some LEDs, resisters, leads, and solderless breadboard. Did I mention this bad-boy employs USB connectivity? Prototyping, FTW!

Next step: get this sucker talking to Ubuntu on my Mini 9.
Step after that: turn on some LEDs
Step even after that: MF-ing robot

+1 Nerd, indeed.