The Bane of Plastics

Plastics will exceed fish in the ocean.


Leap Manifesto


They haven’t thought this through. There is way more to oil than just pumping it and using it for energy. There are numerous by-products from the refining process that we need for modern living. One example is plastics. Oh use recycled plastics you say? This may be fine for cheap Dollarama products but many products require high purity. One specific example are cables used to carry electricity underground. The tiniest impurity in these can render a cable useless. Even worse if the defect is not found until after being installed for a few months with exposure to underground water. When that happens, there is the expense to dig it back up and replace it. This is just one example, maybe you know other oil uses that we can’t just turn off.

For those who don’t follow Canadian politics, The Leap Manifesto was passed this last weekend by the national NDP party. It advocates not building any new infrastructure for fossil fuels. Former leader Thomas Mulclair went on television to talk about “leaving oil in the ground”. Their national convention was in Alberta and created great divisive forces. For Americans, it would be like making a proposal for no more pipelines or oil tankers while in Texas.

Arduino Boot Loading / Data Log

Tech stuff. It took me a couple days to realize that the parallel port loading for Arduino is really obsolete. It happened to be the first article I found on bootloading. While I happened to have an old XP computer with an actual parallel port, not only did it not work but the whole method is archaic even while it’s still contained in the Arduino IDE. The proper current method is:  which I likely didn’t pay enough attention to since it wasn’t on the official Arduino website. Using this circuit I can not only boot load up my 10 extra ATMega328 processors but I can use the Arduino as ISP function with my Nano for programming while still running my Uno for data logging.

Currently investigating battery charging circuits and how frequent I can pump water versus saving power, especially on cloudy days. This is what my trend logger app looks:

daily cycle torontoYou can see how the battery depletes until the sunrises the next day. It’s interesting watching the sun rise and the solar panel voltage count up. Sunrise by the numbers.

Firmware done

The firmware for Carbon Block V1.0 is done for the aquaponics tank. Development on the Arduino Uno went pretty fast. When you plug it in, it shows up as a COM port which I use in many of my industrial projects. It has a software time of day clock that I need for data logging. It can save the value to flash memory if required. I’m using low power mode so it only wakes every 8 seconds also if any command comes in on the serial port. The remote program allows parameters to be changed. The remote program is in Visual Basic now but planned to be Arduino via Bluetooth later. Using it you can set the water pump frequency, read any of the analog inputs which will tell you battery voltage and solar panel voltage (that is how much light the plants are getting) and water temperature. For plant and decoration lights, I have 5 Parallax WS2812B RGB modules. Remotely they can be turned on and changed to any colour. Conveniently, the software for the Adafruit NeoPixels worked fine with these and I can physically arrange them around the tank to light the plants evenly.

Low Power

One of the most important things for the solar powered project is low power consumption. There is so much information on the Internet on milliamp consumption of micro-controllers while running and sleep mode. I had selected the STM8S as a low powered controller but after a couple days of trying to get sample code to run, I looked at Arduino again. My original reason for not going Arduino was it seemed you needed to mod the board to get real low power mode. However it seems that people looking for low power use a barebones Arduino and only add what they need. Also the code base of Arduino is large and mature. Implementation of what I want seems quite simple compared to the STM8S examples which  provide many timing and sleep options but I worry about putting the processor to sleep and it going unresponsive because the interrupt is not properly enabled. Theoretically this should not happen with modern development tools however I’ve seen many robotics controllers needing to be put back to factory power up condition because of bad code.

End of the Line – Where does the Carbon go?

First plans for stage 1 was to build a duckweed device that would grow harvest and dehydrate the duckweed. Dehydrating would serve two purposes One would be to allow measurement of carbon content without the extra water. The second would be to put it on a form that is storable and not broken back down into CO2.

The objective for this March is to create a personal aquaponics system that will provide maintenance free indoor greenspace (just add water). The next step will be a personal sequestering system that will store the harvested carbon for longer term. There are large multi-million dollar demonstration projects that are doing this but there has been no attempt to scale the process down to a smaller format that can be more easily replicated and distributed. (under Links you can see universities building artificial trees.)

Aquaponics system

To maintain balance in the nitrogen cycle for plant growth, I’m going to try putting two water trays and goldfish. It will be a mini-aquaponics system. The question will be if it’s sustainable and relatively maintenance free.