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The BEAM Circuits Collection is a BEAM Reference Library site.

Type 1 (voltage controlled) Solar Engines
A whole list of 'em

Type 1 (voltage controlled) solar engines, are by far the predominant form you'll see. They are easy to build, and provide a fairly high level of efficiency. In the following sections, I attempt to describe all the type 1 solar engine designs that I've stumbled across. Each of these sections includes a text description, along with circuit diagram(s), and in some cases a PCB layout.

  • Zener-based
    This design uses a Zener diode to determine the voltage trip level. Simple variants of this design use LEDs or plain old diodes in series to accomplish the same thing.

  • FLED-based
    This design uses a flashing LED to determine the solar engine's voltage trip level.

  • 1381-based
    Two simple solar engine designs using a 1381* voltage discriminator.

  • The "Miller engine"
    This is a slightly more-sophisticated design based on a 1381* voltage discriminator.

  • GBSE
    The "Gate Boost Solar Engine" is a new (6/2002) Wilf Rigter 1381-based design. This uses an internal voltage doubler to turn on a FET more efficiently.

  • "MicroPower"
    Ken Huntington's fairly complex, but very efficient "micropower" solar engine design. No 1381s or ICs needed.

  • VTSE
    The "Variable Threshold Solar Engine" is Wilf Rigter's 1381-based design -- with a variable "trip" threshold.

    The dual slope sensing SE is another Wilf Rigter design; this SE is optimized for 'bots with a low-power standby mode.

  • "Chloroplast"
    These designs are based on the Motorola MC34164-* micro power undervoltage sensing ICs. They're pretty efficient, work at higher voltages than most solar engines, and can provide voltages for other logic circuits (say, a microprocessor). This page hosts the original Chloroplast by Craig Maynard, as well as some Chloroplast variants by Wilf Rigter.

  • Vx2SE
    This is Wilf Rigter's voltage-doubling solar engine design; very useful for loads that require higher voltage (like those "super-bright" LEDs).


For more information...

Ian Bernstein of "BEAM-Online" fame has a writeup on 1381-based solar engines here, and a tutorial on how to free-form this kind of circuit here.

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Page author: Eric Seale
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