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Pilot LPG Monitoring System

Pilot Gas Monitor
Pilot Gas Monitor

In my mind, the most dangerous thing onboard any boat is the LPG system, as the gas is heavier than air, any leaks tend to collect in the bilges, just waiting for an ignition source. To mitigate this possibility, we’re fitting a gas monitoring system that will sound an alarm & cut off the supply in case of a leak.

Monitor Unit
Monitor Unit

Here’s the monitor itself, the two sensor model. It’s nice & compact, and the alarm is loud enough to wake the dead.

Control Board
Control Board

Not much inside in the way of circuitry, the brains of the operation is a Microchip PIC16F716 8-bit microcontroller with an onboard A/D converter (needed to interface with the sensors), running at 4MHz. The solenoid valve is driven with a ULN2803 Darlington transistor array.
The alarm Piezo sounder can be seen to the right of the ICs, above that is a simple LM7805 linear regulator providing power to the electronics.

Remote Sensor
Remote Sensor

The pair of remote sensors come with 3.5m of cable, a good thing since the mounting points for these are going to be rather far from the main unit in our installation.

Sensor Element
Sensor Element

The sensor itself is a SP-15A Tin Oxide semiconductor type, most sensitive to butane & propane. Unlike the Chinese El-Cheapo versions on eBay, these are high quality sensors. After whiffing some gas from a lighter at one of the sensors, the alarm triggered instantly & tripped the solenoid off.

Solenoid Valve
Solenoid Valve

The solenoid valve goes into the gas supply line after the bottle regulator, in this case I’ve already fitted the adaptors to take the 10mm gas line to the 1/2″ BSP threads on the valve itself. This brass lump is a bit heavy, so support will be needed to prevent vibration compromising the gas line.

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SainSmart Frequency Meter

Thanks to Lewis, M3HHY for lending me this one 🙂

Here’s a quick look at a Sainsmart frequency counter module. These are useful little gadgets, showing the locked frequency on a small LCD display.

It’s built around an ATMega328 microcontroller (µC), and an MB501L Prescaler IC. The circuit for this is very simple, and is easily traced out from the board.

Frequency Counter
Frequency Counter

Here’s the back of the board, with the µC on the left & the prescaler IC on the right. This uses a rather novel method for calibration, which is the trimmer capacitor next to the crystal. This trimmer varies the frequency of the µC’s oscillator, affecting the calibration.

Input protection is provided by a pair of 1N4148 diodes in inverse parallel. These will clamp the input to +/-1v.
The prescaler IC is set to 1/64 divide ratio. This means that for an input frequency of 433MHz, it will output a frequency of 6.765625MHz to the µC.

The software in the µC will then calculate the input frequency from this intermediate frequency. This is done because the ATMega controllers aren’t very cabable of measuring such high frequencies.

The calculated frequency is then displayed on the LCD. This is a standard HD44780 display module.

LCD
LCD

Power is provided by a 9v PP3 battery, which is then regulated down by a standard LM7805 linear regulator.

Readout
Readout

I’ve found it’s not very accurate at all at the lower frequencies, when I fed it 40MHz from a signal generator it displayed a frequency of around 74MHz. This is probably due to the prescaler & the software not being configured for such a low input. In the case for 40MHz input the scaled frequency would have been 625kHz.

 

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AD9850 VFO Board

Continuing from my previous post where I published an Eagle design layout for AD7C‘s Arduino powered VFO, here is a completed board.

I have made some alterations to the design since posting, which are reflected in the artwork download in that post, mainly due to Eagle having a slight psychotic episode making me ground one of the display control signals!

AD9850 VFO
AD9850 VFO

The amplifier section is unpopulated & bypassed as I was getting some bad distortion effects from that section, some more work is needed there.
The Arduino Pro Mini is situated under the display, and the 5v rail is provided by the LM7805 on the lower left corner.

Current draw at 12v input is 150mA, for a power of 1.8W total. About 1W of this is dissipated in the LM7805 regulator, so I have also done a layout with an LM2574 Switching Regulator.
The SMPS version should draw a lot let power, as less is being dissipated in the power supply, but this version is more complex.

DDS VFO-SMPS
DDS VFO-SMPS

Here the SMPS circuit can be seen on the left hand side of the board, completely replacing the linear regulator.
I have not yet built this design, so I don’t know what kind of effect this will have on the output signal, versus the linear regulator. I have a feeling that the switching frequency of the LM2574 (52kHz) might produce some interference on the output of the DDS module. However I have designed this section to the standards in the datasheet, so this should be minimal.

Nevertheless this version is included in the Downloads section at the bottom of this post.

The output coupled through a 100nF capacitor is very clean, as can be seen below, outputting a 1kHz signal. Oscilloscope scale is 0.5ms/div & 1V/div.

VFO Output
VFO Output (Mucky ‘Scope)
Scope Connected
Scope Connected

 

Thanks again to Rich over at AD7C for the very useful tool design!

Linked below is the Eagle design files for this project, along with my libraries used to create it.

[download id=”5571″]

[download id=”5573″]

[download id=”5575″]