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Diary of a Trainee Electronics Engineer: May 2016



HND year one complete, renewable energy and a discrete 555

For most of the month things were pretty crazy. In April I managed to complete the Utilisation of Electrical Energy unit and I have now completed Electrical Power and Engineering Science, which means I'm finished with my HND until September!

Renewable Energy

The final Assignment for Electrical Power was to talk about four different types of renewable energy sources and here I decided to include; photovoltaic, tidal, wind and hydroelectric. Renewable energy has been a hot topic for one of my parents for as long as I can remember and from a young age we’ve had conversations about different forms of this, which meant this assignment was a great are of interest to myself.

Unfortunately, I can't give too much of the content of my assignment away, so I'll just briefly describe each of the types of renewable energy which I covered.


This type of renewable energy is usually more commonly known as “solar cell” and is generated from sunlight. Solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity and are made from semiconducting materials. When this material absorbs the sunlight the solar energy separates the electrons from the atoms. Once these have been separated the electrons can freely flow through the material to produce electricity.title

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For tidal energy conversion there are three basic systems:

Channel systems which funnel the waves into reservoirs;

Float systems that drive hydraulic pumps;

Oscillating water column systems use the waves to compress air within a container.

The mechanical power which is created from the above three systems can either directly activate a generator or it can be transferred to a working fluid (water or air) which then drives a turbine or generator.


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Above are a few different types of turbines which can be used for the generation of tidal energy.


For many years we have been harvesting wind energy, for example windmills have been used to grind grain and pump water. The modern day equivalent is wind turbines, where we use energy from the wind to generate electricity. Usually with 2-3 blades and mounted at 100+ feet, wind turbines can take advantage of faster and less turbulent winds.


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When the wind blows pockets of low-pressure air form, this air pressure pulls the blade causing the rotor to turn – this is called lift. The force against the front side of the blades is referred to as drag. The lift is significantly stronger than the drag and the combination of lift and drag causes the rotor to spin like a propeller, with the turning of the shaft spinning a generator to create electricity.


This is where the energy from moving water is converted into electrical energy. The most common form of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam or a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn is used to drive a generator to produce electricity.


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There are also pumped storage plants which can even store power. Power is taken from the electricity grid into motor-generators. The motor-generators then spin the turbines backwards, which causes them to pump water from a river or lower reservoir to an upper reservoir, where the power is stored. To use the power, the water is released from the upper reservoir back down into the river or lower reservoir. This spins the turbines forward, causing the motor-generators to produce electricity.


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Building a Discrete 555

I took a look a bit further in depth at 555 timers in May, where I wrote about Assembling a Discrete 555 Timer kit by Evil Mad Scientist. I really enjoyed working with a transistor scale PCB where I could clearly see all the internal workings of the 555. I found this very interesting as it's easy to overlook what’s going on inside an IC.


Kitting Up

I finally got chance to catch up on laser cutting some enclosures which I'd been meaning to get round to for a while. Once the acrylic panels were cut I then packaged these with the appropriate fastener hardware and other components which come as part of the kit. I find assembling kits quite therapeutic, similar to as I do with soldering.


The Year Ahead

I'm very much looking forward to attending Wuthering Bytes later this year, where I will be running a soldering workshop again as part of Open Source Hardware Camp. I can't believe that it will be the 5th consecutive year which I have attended, time seems to be flying by.


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Since I've now finished year one of my HND I decided to take a break in sunny Cyprus where I really enjoyed relaxing as well as going on a glass bottom boat and buggy safari.


Back to work now to put in extra days over the summer before I start the second year of my HND in September!

Trainee Electronics Engineer, currently studying towards my degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Hudderfsield. Completed my HND in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from Bradford College 2017. Love to try new things and build interesting projects!

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