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Gadget Freak Case #260: Arduino Solar Charge Controller

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DW
User Rank
Iron
Re: Build Instructions File Damaged
DW   5/7/2015 1:20:24 PM
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It appears you have to log onto Design News to open the Build Instructions.  After logging on, I was able to open the Build Instructions.

DW
User Rank
Iron
Build Instructions File Damaged
DW   5/7/2015 1:09:44 PM
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The build instructions PDF file is damaged.  Can someone fix the file?

brett_cgb
User Rank
Gold
Re: Innovation?
brett_cgb   11/5/2014 12:28:29 PM
This is a good start. It's simple, probably reliable, reasonably safe (for the user and battery) but it's not efficent. It needs a DC-DC converter.

Add an apropriate inductor to form a switch mode DC-DC converter (using existing PWM), and sample the panel output current. Multiply the panel voltage and panel current to get panel power. Adjust PWM to maximize panel power. Repeat calculations once a second. This is how "Maximum Power Point Tracking" (MPPT) works.

MPPT is where the Arduino adds it's magic.

The converter output current may need to be limited to protect the battery. Sample battery charge current, and de-tune the converter PWM to reduce converter output power (voltage).

 

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Innovation?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   9/4/2014 3:58:25 PM
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* * laughing * * --- Yes, that makes more sense.  An Altoids can would be too conductive and cause issues!  But there is no telling what fast-grab items wind up in these gadgets!

debasish
User Rank
Iron
Re: Innovation?
debasish   9/4/2014 3:12:39 PM
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No it is a plastic box..looks very similar to a altoid box.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Innovation?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   9/4/2014 12:48:00 PM
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Is that a can of Altoidtm Breath Mints used for the Housing-?

gof
User Rank
Iron
Re: Innovation?
gof   9/4/2014 12:09:00 AM
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William, DrBob,

While I agree the arduino is overkill from a functional standpoint, it provides an interesting lesson on the "what" of the project (modes of charging, protections, etc).  For many novices, the ease of seeing this from a microcontroller viewpoint is much easier to understand. The author in this case spent a lot of time putting together the instructions (and running dialog on where he had gaps).

Since you both are obviously passionate on how this could be translated to a much more robust and simple solution, perhaps collaborate on a quick, simple alternate design using analog components.  I know I for one would love to see the comparison (obviously no display, but more likely status indicators). It might inspire emerging makers who see the simplicity of arduino implementation to take that next step beyond the prototype/concept design.

I'm sure DN would publish such a follow up article.

 

Nancy Golden
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Micro Defense
Nancy Golden   9/3/2014 4:31:36 PM
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Great points, tekochip - the versatility of microcontrollers make them a great choice for adding additional features that can mean the difference between an "ok" project that will do the job but with only barebones functionality and a very useful project that offers additional features that increase efficiency and usability.

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Micro Defense
tekochip   9/3/2014 3:48:44 PM
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I have to defend the use of a microcontroller.  I was faced with the same problem for charging the battery in my lawn mower and opted for a micro.  There are a few advantages to using a micro:

A display.  You can have a status display showing State of Charge and anything else you might wish to monitor.  The SOC can get a little tricky with some cells like NiMh, so you can use Columb counting to measure what goes in and what goes out.

Flexibility.  A micro gives you easy flexibility in changing the way the cells are charged and monitored.

Low current.  When I first started working on my own charge monitor I found that most systems were pulling mA of current at idle and I really wanted something in the uA range.

 

Nancy Golden
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Innovation?
Nancy Golden   8/21/2014 6:22:18 PM
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I think this project is pretty cool and nevermind the debate about using a microcontroller versus discrete components; I see this as a fun project - not something to be mass- marketed. Many of my homespun projects are not more cost-effective than other solutions but are just plain fun or an excuse to learn something new.

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