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Circuit Notebook

Interesting circuit ideas which we have checked but not built and tested. Contributions from readers are welcome and will be paid for at standard rates.

Low cost burglar alarm for boats

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This low-cost burglar alarm employs a 12V strobe light and a truck reversing horn as the visible and audible alarm outputs while the alarm itself is a 12V horn relay and some pressure mat switches.

This simple approach has the benefit that the alarm continues to operate even if the entry point is immediately closed and it draws no current while in the armed condition. To make it independent of the boat supply it runs from a single 12V or two 6V alkaline lantern batteries connected in series. These should last well in excess of two years.

An advantage of a lantern battery is that it will last less than an hour while powering the alarm in its active role. This means the alarm system will not seriously contravene noise pollution laws. If there are very strict noise regulations in your area, you can fit an alarm timer, available from some electronic shops, in the circuit between the battery positive and the key switch.

The key switch can be installed in the cockpit bulkhead and connects to two normally open (NO) switches wired in parallel. One switch is a pressure mat placed on the cockpit floor near the entry, underneath a suitable piece of carpet or pliable cover. If a pressure mat is unsuitable, the main entry can be protected by a mechanical switch such as an automobile boot lid or door courtesy light switch.

The second switch can be used to protect against entry through a forward hatch or second wheelhouse door. Any number of normally open (NO) switches can be installed in this system, all wired in parallel.

If the alarm is tripped, the relay closes and latches on due to the wiring of its contacts and the horn and strobe light are powered.

The suggested truck reversing horn is the Hella 6023 intermittent reversing buzzer which has an 85dB sound level and a current drain of 0.9A at 12V. The suggested strobe is a Hella 1657 which has an amber lens in a weatherproof housing. This strobe flashes about once per second and the current drain at 12V is 0.25A.

The strobe can be installed outside on deck or in the main cabin where its flash will be seen through most ports and windows. Wiring to both the warning horn and strobe light should be concealed.

Dave Jeanes,
Banora Point, NSW. ($35)

Remote alarm for smoke detector

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This alarm circuit was designed to monitor a mains-powered smoke detector located in a shed (which is used to house dog kennels). It provides complete isolation from the mains so that low-voltage (12V) cabling could be run to the alarm circuit which is located inside the house.

In operation, the alarm signal (I) from the smoke detector is rectified using bridge rectifier BR1 and then fed to optoiso­lator OPTO1 via resistor R3. This in turn drives the gate of SCR1 which turns on and activates a piezo siren with inbuilt oscillator.

Power for the circuit is derived via mains transformer T1. This drives a full-wave rectifier based on diodes D1 & D2 to produce around 9V DC and this is then applied to the alarm cir­cuit via switch S1. Capacitor C1 filters the supply rail, while LED1 provides power-on indication.

When the alarm is triggered, it latches on until reset by S1 (ie, the switch must be opened and then closed again).

Finally, a relay could be connected between pins 1 & 2 to switch larger loads than the piezo siren - eg, to turn emergency lights on.

Troy McDonaugh,
Loganholme, Qld. ($35)

Editor's Note: this circuit is recommended for experienced constructors only. In particular, note that all parts to the left of the MOC3021 optocoupler, including BR1 and R3, are at mains (240VAC) potential.

Yes-No indicator has zero standby current

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This circuit produces a random "Yes" or "No" with a single button press - indicated by the illumination of a red or green LED. The circuit has two advantages over similar circuits.

First, it uses just a single momentary contact pushbutton, so no on-off switch is required. When the pushbutton is pressed, an oscillator comprising the 10nF capacitor and 22kΩ resistor at pins 1 & 2 is almost immediately stopped by FET Q1, which pulls the oscillator's timing capacitor to the positive rail.

However, the 220nF capacitor and 470kΩ resistor in the gate circuit of Q1 introduce a tenth of a second's delay, so that about 250 oscillations take place before the clock is stopped. Due to variations in charge on the circuit's capacitors, as well as voltage and temperature variations, and the unpredictability of when the pushbutton will be pressed, randomness is assured.

The circuit has a high degree of randomness because it takes advantage of a near-perfect complementary square waveform at pins 10 and 11 of the 4047 IC. The oscillator frequency (available at pin 13) is passed through an internal divide-by-2 circuit in the 4047. This appears at pin 10 (Q), and is inverted at pin 11 (Q-bar), thus assuring a near perfect 50:50 duty cycle for the two LEDs.

Note, however, that the "impartiality" of the circuit is partly contingent on the value of the 10nF capacitor and on a reasonably equal current flow through both LEDs.

Over five trials, the Yes-No Indicator scored 142 Yes, 158 No, with Yes falling behind No in the fourth trial. Because the circuit only works while switch S1 is pressed, standby current is zero, therefore a miniature 12V battery may be used to power it. In this case the circuit could be used thousands of times before the battery would run flat.

The circuit has a further potential use. If the LEDs are omitted and a piezo (capacitive) sounder is wired directly to pins 10 and 11, it will produce a loud beep when equipment is turned on, and will continue to draw less than 0.5mA until it is switched off. The frequency of the beep may be changed by altering the value of the 10nF capacitor and its duration by altering the value of the 220nF capacitor.

Thomas Scarborough,
Capetown, South Africa. ($35)

Battery charger regulator

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Most off-the-shelf car battery chargers cannot not be left connected to the battery for long periods of time as over-charging and consequent battery damage will occur. This add-on circuit is placed in series with the battery being charged and is powered by the battery itself.

In effect, the circuit uses a high-current Mosfet to control the charging current and it turns off when the battery voltage reaches a preset threshold.

Power for the circuit is fed from the battery to 3-terminal regulator REG1 which provides 8V. LED1 indicates that the battery is connected and that power is available.

The 555 timer IC is configured as an astable oscillator running at approximately 100kHz. It feeds a diode pump (D1 & D2) to generate adequate gate voltage for Mosfet Q3, enabling it to turn on with very little on resistance (typically 14 milliohms).

With the Mosfet turned on, current flows from the charger's positive terminal so that charging can proceed. The battery voltage is monitored by 10kΩ pot VR1. When the wiper voltage exceeds the conduction voltage of zener diode ZD1, transistor Q1 turns on and pulls pin 4 (reset) low to switch off the 555 and remove gate drive to the Mosfet.

This process is progressive so that the cycle rapidly repeats itself as the battery charges. Eventually, a point is reached when the battery approaches its charged condition and the cycle slows right down.

Transistor Q2 and LED2 function as a cycle indicator. When the battery is under charge, LED2 appears to be constantly on. When the battery is fully charged, LED2 briefly flicks off (charging) and returns to the on state (not charging) for a longer period.

Paul Walsh,
Montmorency, Vic. ($40)

Video tracer for trouble-shooting

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This circuit was designed as an aid to installers and maintainers of video systems. It is basically a video sync separator (IC1) followed by a LED and buzzer driver (IC2, Q1 & Q2).

In use, the device is connected to a video cable and if there is video present, the LED will flash at about 10Hz. If there is no video, the LED flashes briefly every couple of seconds.

A buzzer can also be switched in to provide an audible indication. The buzzer is particularly useful when tracing cabling faults or trying to find a correct cable amongst many, where it is difficult to keep an eye on the LED.

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Another use for the buzzer option is to provide a video fault indication. For example, it could be inserted in bridging mode, with switch S1 in high impedance mode (position 2)) across a video line and set to alarm when there is no video present. If someone pulls out a cable or the video source is powered off, the alarm would sound.

IC1 is a standard LM1881 video sync separator circuit and 75Ω termination can be switched in or out with switch S1a. The other pole of the switch, S1b, turns on the power. The composite sync output at pin 1 is low with no video input and it pulses high when composite sync is detected.

These pulses charge a 100nF capacitor via diode D1. When there is no video at the input, oscillator IC2b is enabled and provides a short pulse every couple of seconds to flash the LED. The duty cycle is altered by including D2, so that the discharge time for the 10μF capacitor is much shorter than the charge time. The short LED pulse is used as a power-on indicator drawing minimal average current.

When video is present at the input, IC2b is disabled and IC2d is enabled. The output of IC2d provides a 10Hz square wave signal to flash the LED.

The buzzer is controlled by switch S2. In position 2 the buzzer will sound when there is video at the input and in position 1 the buzzer will sound when there is no video at the input.

Leon Williams,
Bungendore, NSW

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