A Uranium Glass Marble Ring Oscillator for Your Next Steampunk Project

UMRO "spins" LED lighting using only discrete components.

Jeremy Cook
3 years ago

If you’ve never considered owning a greenish, slightly radioactive device that glows in a circular pattern, then this Uranium Glass Marble Ring Oscillator, or UMRO might change your mind. It nominally runs on a 9V battery, and is small enough that it could be worn as a steampunk-style pendant or placed into an antique flashlight case as creator Aeon Junophor did with his. Or one of his at least, as he's geared up to build multiples of this interesting unit.

Uranium-embedded glass was chosen for the central luminous orb because it exhibits a strong fluorescence effect under UV light in certain wavelengths. This enables it to glow sequentially, with the seven UV LEDs arranged on the outside of the sphere shine into it. He’s quick to note that the radiation emitted here is quite low, so you likely don’t need to worry about overexposure from this little decoration.

Besides looking neat, a really fascinating aspect is how the electronics themselves are used. Instead of a microcontroller, Junophor is using an arrangement of NOT gates arranged to form a ring oscillator that lights up one LED after another. Capacitors and resistors are used to vary the sequence timing, This means timing can also be controlled by the input voltage (9V and 4.5V tested), allowing one to vary the speed using a potentiometer. Be sure to check out contraption in the video below:

Jeremy Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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