Few words about me:

From very childhood I loved computers, electronics, lasers, sulfuric acid and liquid nitrogen. I always wanted to be making microchips, UAVs and see nuclear explosion.

Now I am doing software engineering and in the spare time - some microelectronics and physics/chemistry experiments.

I live and work in Russia, Moscow.

MAKS 2013

Weather was far from ideal, but in other days it was even worse. Hopefully they will shift MAKS 2015 earlier to the beginning of August.

There is no T-50 (PAK FA) on the video - I was too late for it by mere 15 minutes
September 1, 2013

Overclocking Arduino with liquid nitrogen cooling. 20⇒65.3Mhz @-196°C/-320°F

Before I start I guess I must answer 2 questions which would be asked inevitably:

1) Why? Because I can. To learn how electronics behave at cryogenic temperatures. And just curios how much juice you can squeeze out of AVR if you push hard enough This also produced some results relevant to desktop processors overclocking with liquid nitrogen cooling.

2) Why Arduino UNO (ATmega328P-based) while there are many faster microcontrollers? Just because it seems that Arduino is more popular among geeks and amateurs. For practical applications it is easier and cheaper to just use Cortex-M3/M4 based microcontrollers or FPGA (and I had these devboards too) instead of trying to overclock poor Arduino :-).

Overclocking microcontrollers with liquid nitrogen cooling promises to be harder, than overclocking desktop processors : there are no stability tests, no on-board programmable frequency generator (at least on AVR microcontrollers), no programmable supply voltage. Also, it appeared that a number of on-board components were failing - so I had to deal with them individually. Luckily for me all these problems were sorted out at the end.
August 15, 2013

ULN2003 - practical example of «reading» microchip schematic

We often receive comments that while our microchip photos are beautiful and interesting, it is completely unclear how integrated circuit implements basic elements and form larger circuit. Of course it is impossible to do a detailed review of an 1'000'000 transistor chip, so we've found simpler example: ULN2003 - array of Darlington transistors.

Despite it's simplicity this microchip is still widely used and mass manufactured. ULN2003 contains 21 resistors, 14 BJT transistors and 7 diodes. It is used to control relatively high load (up to 50V/0.5A) from microcontroller pin. Canonical use case - controlling segments of large 7-segment LED displays.

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August 14, 2013

Liquid nitrogen and sugar phosphorescence

Finally managed to play with liquid nitrogen!
It appeared, that it's sold near my house, about ~1.5$ per liter.


August 11, 2013

Radioactivity of natural potassium

Accidentally realized, that natural potassium is radiactive. it has ~0.0117% Potassium-40, which decays with emission of beta-particles & gamma radiation. Radiation levels through are safe even with 1kg of KOH.

I had to remove energy-compensating cover on the Geiger tubes to detect more of beta particles.




 
July 27, 2013

Thunderstorm in Moscow



 
June 29, 2013

Bitfury - specialized Bitcoin processor

Recently we've received sample chips from engineering run of Bitfury - specialized Bitcoin processor.

Compared to Avalon/BFL it is much more advanced thanks to 55nm manufacturing technology (TSMC) and full-custom design. Performance of single chip is ~2-3 Ghash/sec (final numbers are TBD) compared to ~282 Mhash/sec for Avalon.

Designer of Bitfury decided to remain anonymous, it is only known that he is from Ukraine. This was his first ASIC project, he was doing few FPGA projects in the past. What is even more unbelievable is that due to tight time requirements they had to skip MPW run and go straight to full mask run. Cost of mistake was extremely high, but it all worked from the first time. Final devices would be assembled by Metabank in Russia.

Photos

The package is QFN again (like in Avalon) - due to it's excellent thermal performance and short/low inductance connections to leads.


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June 25, 2013

Ring light Sony HVL-RL1

I was thinking about buying ring light for my camera for quite some time - and finally accidentally bought it
Sony HVL-RL1 - is a constantly glowing LED light, not a flashlamp. At ISO100-200 one can shoot without tripod with F7.1-F8. I've seen that previous edition of this lamp had 4 times lower light output - and I think it might have been insufficient.



Sample photo with full ring illumination:



Half ring illumination:

 
June 19, 2013

Microscope photos of Avalon - specialized Bitcoin processor

Yifu Guo (designer of Avalon) agreed to send me several chips for decapsulation, but while they were slowly traveling around the world - needbmw gave me damaged chip from his Avalon bitcoin mining unit.

Damaged chip itself (fortunately, die itself is not damaged):
This tiny thing does 282 Mhash/s (like AMD 6970 videocard), consuming ~2.5W of power.


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June 11, 2013

Technopolis "Moscow"

Visited Technopolis "Moscow". It is like "Skolkovo" for high-volume manufacturing - it offers lower taxes (0% property tax, 15.5% profit tax instead of 20%), simplified customs bureaucracy and huge area (220'000 m2) left after car manufacturing plant ("Moskvich").

This is how it looked before reconstruction:

June 3, 2013

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