Understanding the Need for an Electrosmog Detector
The rationale behind constructing an electrosmog (‘E-smog’) detector is straightforward. Modern everyday items, from toothbrushes and cameras to cellphones and TV sets, incorporate electrical components. Consequently, these devices emit electrical radiation. While manufacturers must adhere to regulations, it does not guarantee complete immunity from electrosmog. Even devices with the ubiquitous ‘CE’ certification may not fully comply with all regulations, leading to potential interference with other electronic devices. Consider instances like placing a mobile phone near a low-cost alarm clock radio or budget PC speakers while making or receiving calls—a scenario where interference is common. (Guitar amplifiers might not be too fond of cellphones either…)
Navigating the Complexity of Electromagnetic Radiation
The intricate web of electromagnetic radiation, or electrosmog, prompts the creation of a detector. With our surroundings inundated by electrically charged devices, monitoring these emissions becomes crucial. Despite regulatory guidelines, the emission levels from common gadgets like phones, cameras, and televisions vary widely. Hence, it’s prudent to have a tool that offers real-time insights into the electromagnetic environment. Building an electrosmog detector provides individuals with a means to gauge and comprehend the electromagnetic landscape they inhabit daily.
Detecting Radiant Misbehavior: The TAPIR E-Smog Detector
TAPIR, the acronym for ‘Totally Archaic but Practical Interceptor of Radiation,’ stands as a reliable E-smog detector designed to identify the electromagnetic disturbances emitted by nearby electronics. Its applications range from personal use (determining safe spots to avoid excessive radiation) to practical scenarios (identifying Wi-Fi antenna directions) and professional contexts (identifying potential interference during sensitive measurements). Remarkably, it also serves as an ideal introductory SMD (Surface Mount Device) soldering project, offering an easy and enjoyable assembly experience, even suitable for collaborations with children or grandchildren.
Wide Range of Detection: Electric and Magnetic Fields
TAPIR excels in detecting both high-frequency electric and magnetic fields. Magnetic fields primarily stem from transformers and loop antennas, whereas electric fields emanate from sources like high-voltage transmission lines and EL backlights or passing vehicles. The device’s antennas are tailored for specific fields: a ferrite-cored coil for magnetic fields and a simple rod antenna, fashioned from installation wire, for electric fields.
Operating Principle: Simplified Circuit Design
The operational simplicity of TAPIR lies in its circuit design, akin to an Elektor circuit from 2005. It features a three-stage low-frequency amplifier with high gain, lacking a low-pass filter. This absence allows high frequencies to reach the gain stages, where the nonlinear properties of the transistors demodulate these signals. Consequently, high-frequency signals can be audibly detected via connected headphones. The circuit operates effectively at a low voltage range of 1.2 to 1.5 V, making a single AAA cell a suitable power source. This low voltage acts as a natural limiter, ensuring that even strong signals do not overwhelm the amplifier, maintaining safe output levels.
Building Your Own Detector: Assembly Process
For DIY enthusiasts, TAPIR is available as an affordable kit, inclusive of the PCB and all necessary components, except for basic soldering tools and precision tweezers. Prior to assembly, it’s advisable to organize the components meticulously. An online assembly manual aids in the process. Once sorted, the soldering can commence, offering an engaging project for enthusiasts keen on exploring the world of surface mount electronics.
Mastering SMD Assembly: Practical Tips
Getting accustomed to the process begins with working on larger components such as the switch (S1) and the headphone jack (K2). Exercise caution while soldering K2; excessive solder may complicate later assembly within the housing. After completion, detach PCB #2 and #4 from the panel, smoothing out the edges formerly held in place. To proceed, consider wetting one pad first when soldering SMDs. Gently align the component using tweezers and reflow the solder, aided by the flux, ensuring a secure connection. Pay attention to the soldering process; the objective is to solder, not merely wet the pad or component. Subsequent components can be tackled similarly, ensuring meticulous soldering practices for the tidiest connections.
Constructing the TAPIR Housing: A Cubist Approach
Upon finishing, remove PCB #3 from the panel, leaving a slight ridge. This ridge is essential for assembling the PCBs into the housing. Solder the RCA connector (K1) onto PCB #3. Proceed to attach PCBs #5, 6, and 7 onto PCB #3, making precise adjustments. After the placement of PCB #4 and alignment with PCBs #3, 5, and 6, carefully solder the corresponding pads. To finalize the assembly, solder PCB #2, ensuring its secure connection to the other components. Insert M2×6 PCB pillars, securing them flat and centered. Counter-sink the screws into PCB #1, ensuring a proper fit. Place the spring and AAA battery, close the lid, and your TAPIR is ready for use.
Constructing Antennas: Customized Detection
For electric fields, create a simple rod antenna using an RCA connector and 20 cm (8 inches) of stiff electrical installation wire. To detect magnetic fields, construct an inductor-based antenna using a wire frame and connecting one end of the coil to the center pin of the RCA plug and the other end to the outer connection. Ensure a secure ground connection to TAPIR to prevent the inductor from acting as an electric field antenna. Detailed construction guidelines can be found on our website .
Utilizing TAPIR: Easy and Intuitive
Using TAPIR is straightforward. Connect the headphones and an antenna, switch it on, and move it around electrical devices. Each device emits distinct noises based on the type and frequency of the field it generates. Explore various devices such as TFT PC displays, cellphones, laptops, fluorescent lamps, microwaves, routers, and more, each producing unique sounds. Marvel at the diverse noises emitted by daily devices and observe the intriguing world of e-smog. To witness these demonstrations, check out our video on Elektor’s YouTube channel , showcasing the array of sounds generated by everyday gadgets, illustrating the pervasive e-smog present in urban environments.
You can also use TAPIR for listening in on the inductive loop transmission system frequently present
in museums and other public places. It’s actually quite fun to have access to a sixth and seventh set of senses.
But it also makes one aware of a world our own senses cannot detect. And what goes on in this world might not be as nice as you’d hope it would be. We would like to thank all contributing partners for making this project possible:
– PCB production: Beta LAYOUT /
– PCB design: Museum Jan Corver  and YiG Engineering.
– Original circuit design: Burkhard