Introduction: Desktop Energy Seed Lamp

Picture of Desktop Energy Seed Lamp
Hello everyone,

Today I will show you something very interesting. It is not a killing robot or skynet (not yet).
It is a desktop ambiant light that use dead alkaline battery to power itself. This design can hold up to 15 batteries. It use a single joules thief circuit to power 50 LED!

The idea came when I was surfing

and found this

The designer of that concept idea is Sungwoo Park and Sunhee Kim.

You are about to see how I made that lamp using common material and simple technique to build it.
I did try to make this lamp very simple to build, I though about all the people out there that don't have all the tools and skill to build complex stuff. I when with the moto "KISS" Keep It Simple Stupid.

I did a lot of planning before making the design. I tried to visualized the design in my head, I did some sketchup drawings, I made a lot of paper drawings. I sort of had only one shot at this and had to make it work the first time.

When I first saw this device, my brain started working and trying to figure out way to make it. These ideas where keep in my head. One month ago I saw the contest about environmentally friendly design. The first idea was to build a solar power ipod charger. A few second later I remember that energy seed and said, that is it, I am building a table top version of that! Back home I started drawing and taking notes about ideas. At the end of this intructables, you will be able to see those drawings I made.

By the way, I am doing a intern at and I am having a blast! They have a laser cutter and I sort of fell in love with that machine, it really get your creativity going. Now I really want one :)
I will be a the MAKER FAIRE this May. I am presently in Alberta. I am going back to school (summer semester ) at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec and then will leave for California!

PS - I really love yanko design because I get ideas and inspiration from that website.

Have fun!

ps- I guess I should say desktop lamp instead of table top and I should of said "Table top energy seed LAMP" in my title. You can't have everything right! :-)

<edit March 21, 2009>
I thought the deadline for the contest was MARCH 19 and not APRIL 19!
I work like crazy to get that thing done "in time". I have now time to make a other instructable! :D

<updated: April 2, 2009>
You guys rock! I got 4.5 on 5 stars! That is SO NICE! THANK YOU SO MUCH! This is really motivating to see people reaction and comments. This makes me happy! :-)
I got 18390 view and 3528 view today, that newsletter did his magic! Thanks again!
I really appreciate it!.

<updated: Sept 14, 2009>
The video was featured on Daily Planet! :D
I also have a website now

Step 1: All the Parts

Picture of All the Parts

This is a big project.

When I made that lamp, I did not know exactly where I was going so some parts are no on that pictures.
It is missing a lot of stuff.

Construction material
1inch by 3/4 inch by 1 feet piece of wood. It cost me 78cents :)
6 x 12 inch static foam sheet
7 x 7 inch piece of wood to mount the entire lamp to it.
6 x 6 inch piece of plastic ( sintra or acrylic ) 1/4 thick
12 x 12 metal sheet.

1 pack of screws #4 5/8" ( I used about 12 )
1 pack of screws #4 1" ( I used only 4 )

1 x 1lb / 454gr empty magarine container

Electricals components
40 x bright LED any colours you want. ( You can also have super bright LED and ultra bright LED )
1 x ferrite bead ( digikey part number HFB095051-100 )
1 x 1K resistor
1 x 2N3904 / 2N2222 transistor
1 x 1/4" mono chassis jack
1 x 1/4" mono plug

Breaboard wire
Wirewrap wire ( 2 different colours is better )
Rosh comliant lead free solder. ( Every details counts )
Spray paint
Masking tape
Screw drivers

Don't forget old batteries!

I recommend you read the entire instructables before starting.

Step 2: Making the Base of the Lamp

Picture of Making the Base of the Lamp

I took a 18cm x 18 cm ( 7inch x 7 inch ) peace of wood laying around and mark the center.

This is the base of the lamp.

Step 3: Preparing the Power Rails

Picture of Preparing the Power Rails

Download the PDF and trace the power rails shape.

If you print out the PDF, please be sure to check out the print options.

Page scaling = NONE
Auto-Rotate and center = uncheck

Sorry about the dimension in the file, I had a hard time trying to get those dimension in CorelDraw.

Step 4: Cutout the Power Rails

Picture of Cutout the Power Rails

Use big metal scissor to cut out the metal plates.

Step 5: Drills the Power Rails Plates

Picture of Drills the Power Rails Plates

Simply drill out holes in the plates. The holes size depends of the screw you will use.

I use #6 wooden screws.

I use a metal punch to mark where I wanted the holes. This will help you center the drill bit when drilling.
You could use a sharp nail and a hammer to mark the metal instead of using a metal punch.

After drilling I use a big drill bit to scuff the metals bits. ( By hand )

Step 6: Cut Out the Main Hole in the Power Rails

Picture of Cut Out the Main Hole in the Power Rails

I have with me a very handy tool to cut out shape into metal.
I first saw this tool in a Xbox case mod, where the guy cut out some pretty nice shape in the side panel of the Xbox.

But can't figure out the name...

<edit March 20, 2009>

It is a NIBBLER!

I knew someone would help me! Thanks Griffith.

Step 7: Secure the Lid to the Base Plate

Picture of Secure the Lid to the Base Plate

Take 5 wooden screws to secure the magarine lid to the wooden base.

Step 8: Cut Four Little Wooden Block

Picture of Cut Four Little Wooden Block

I took my big 8 feets long piece of wood and cut it into 4 little peace of wooden.

They measure 2,7cm ( 1.063" ) long.

I was very lucky because that was the perfect measurement and everything fit snuggly.

Step 9: Screw the Bottom Wooden Block

Picture of Screw the Bottom Wooden Block

I took the bottom metal plate and put it on in the lid so I could see where the wooden block could sit.

I trace lines so I could drill it out. The four holes need to go throught the wooden base. The screw will be screwed from underneath.

Step 10: Screw in the Bottom Wooden Block

Picture of Screw in the Bottom Wooden Block

You simply screw the bottom screw to hold down the bottom block.

My 1 inch screws were to small so I had to recess the holes.

Step 11: Making the Battery Centering Mecanism

Picture of Making the Battery Centering Mecanism

Print the PDF, I have check the PDF dimension

Page scaling = NONE
Auto-Rotate and center = uncheck

Sorry about the dimension in the file, I had a hard time trying to get those dimension in CorelDraw.

Step 12: Drill Out the Holes

Picture of Drill Out the Holes

I push out the holes before drilling.

The I drill.

That yellow stuff is sintra.

Step 13: Drill the Bigger Hole

Picture of Drill the Bigger Hole

Start by drilling smaller holes then drill out with a big holes.

Make BIG holes because you want a battery to fit in. If not then you have to start over!

1/2 holes was NOT big enough.

Step 14: Making Holes for Wires

Picture of Making Holes for Wires

This is sort of optional and was for me to pass wires in those holes.

You can use the middle holes.

Step 15: Finish Touch on the Middle Plate

Picture of Finish Touch on the Middle Plate

I use metal scissor to cut the sintra. This will only work with sintra. Sintra is very soft and easy to work with. You can not do that with acrylic.

Since my hand made version had 1/2 hole for the batteries, I had to make a other one. I took the laser from work to cut it out so I could continue with the instructables.

ps - I do not own a laser! I am doing a intern at and they have a laser. I sort of got "hook" by this machine and I want one when I go back to Qu�bec to build my future robots! :D

Step 16: Mark the Top of the Bottom Block.

Picture of Mark the Top of the Bottom Block.

Here we are going to install the part we just made. The battery holder.

We start by marking the top of the bottom block.
Drill and screw them!


Step 17: Mark the Other Side for the Other Block

Picture of Mark the Other Side for the Other Block

Do the same thing for the other side.

Step 18: Making Holes for the Top Wooden Blocks

Picture of Making Holes for the Top Wooden Blocks

Here is where you see the improvisation.

To have the top block to align with the middle plate, I took put them under the middle plate to trace out holes. Then I made lines and when for the middle.

Then I screw everything together.

In other words you simply need to add 2 more block on top of the battery holder.

Step 19: Installing the Top Metal Plate

Picture of Installing the Top Metal Plate

Here you use the same technique and attach the top metal plate to the top.

Step 20: Cutting Out the Foam

Picture of Cutting Out the Foam

This foam is a spacer and acts has a spring to push the battery up.

Instead of using a big sheat you could try to cut out smaller pieces of that foam.
Then you place them underneat the bottom plate at different place.

Step 21: Screw Down the Bottom Metal Plate

Picture of Screw Down the Bottom Metal Plate

Screw the bottom plate with 4 screws. Do no tight up the screws, you want to have space to the metal plate moves along the screw. They act has guides.

Step 22: Testing Out

Picture of Testing Out

Assemble everything to see if the battery fit snuggly into the device.

In my design some battery are loose and fall out. I have a solution that I will talk at the end.

Step 23: Cut Out the Hole for the Lamp "socket"

Picture of Cut Out the Hole for the Lamp &quot;socket&quot;

Use a knife and cut a hole in the bottom of the margarine. 1 cm is good.

Step 24: Cutting the Battery Hole

Picture of Cutting the Battery Hole

Cut out a hole so a battery can fit in.

Step 25: Painting the Lamp

Picture of Painting the Lamp

I started by sanding down the plastic. I then clean the surface to remove dust. I then finish painting the thing green first so I could have decals on it. That green is really dark and ugly. That was the only paint I had in stock.

Take your time when you paint, give a lot of thin coats.

Step 26: Making Decals

Picture of Making Decals

Since we have a laser at work I decide to use it to cut out decals on green tape. So I did!

You could use a X-Acto to cut the shape you want.

When the decals was on my magarine lid, I had to heat it up with my heat gun because that green tape does not stick a lot.

I then painted the thing black. I did sand the thing again to be sure to have a nice finish.

It turn out really nice!

Step 27: Making the LED Tree

Picture of Making the LED Tree

You will need to solder a lot of LED in parallel. I made my self a jig to hold down all the LED while soldering.
I simply put every LED in there holes and pointing the cathode all the same way. I then cut different length of wire for the LED. I use a other sort of tool to help me cut them faster. I started by soldering all the cathode first, then I solder all them together in pack of 10. I did the same thing with the anode.

The wire I use was wire wrap 30 gauge. I would recommend using 28 gauge so that will make the "branch" stiffer.

Cathode = flat side of the LED

Step 28: The Power Switch

Picture of The Power Switch

Here is where I get complticated. All you are about to see in the step is all optinal. Sort of.

I had the idea of having a "dimmer" to my design. I wanted to keep simple so I decide to have 2 switchs controlling there own set of light. Let say one swiths controls 10 LED and the other switch control 20. Then you could have 10, 20 or 30 LED light up.

Yes this is a not a real dimmer. It is a 3 way switch! The exact same thing has a 3 way buld where you have 50W, 100W so you get 50W, 100W and 150W.

It does works!

I will then show you how I did.

Step 29: The Bottom Metal Plate Connector

Picture of The Bottom Metal Plate Connector

You need to solder a wire to the bottom metal plate.

Step 30: Make the Circuit

Picture of Make the Circuit

Parts you will need:
1 meter of white and 1 meter of black wirewrap wire 30 or 28 gauge
1 x Ferrite bead digikey part number 240-2145-ND
40 x High power LED
1x 1K resistor
1x 2N3904 or 2N2222 NPN transistor

You can use one color of wirewrap, having two colour will make you life easier.
I first starter using the same colour and took a marker to mark the second wire.
Having 2 colours helps you and me trying to explain.

Start by twisting both wire together. Then pass it in the ferrite bead and you will loop into the bead until physically you can not pass it anymore. You just made yourself a little transformer.

When that is done, you can go to the next page.

<-edit March 21, 2009->
Ps - Have a look at this link

The guy use the same circuit and a rusty nail to make the coil! It works!

Step 31: Connection on the Transformer

Picture of Connection on the Transformer

This is simple step.

Look at the picture. I twisted the wires together and added solder.

Go to the next step.

ps - if you flick between the 2 images, it looks like a dancing bean!

Step 32: The Electronic Circuit

Picture of The Electronic Circuit

Take you transistor and connect the 1K resistor to the middle pin ( base )

A transistor has 3 legs, Emitter, Base and Colletor.

If you look at the 2N3904/2N2222 the flat side towards you ( facing up)

It goes like this

Emitter Base Collector

Remenber that!

Step 33: Testing the Joule Thief

Picture of Testing the Joule Thief

Look at that picture, it mean everything!

Connect a LED and you should see it light up.

ps- the very first time I did make a joule thief, it did not work!! I then said " Srew it!" I then never touched that circuit until now!

This mean, don't give up!

Step 34: Soldering the "branch"

Picture of Soldering the &quot;branch&quot;

I use heat shrink to hide the solder connections.

Step 35: Making the Final Electric Conenctions

Picture of Making the Final Electric Conenctions

have fun.

Step 36: Assembling and Testing

Picture of Assembling and Testing

Assemble everything and test it.

It works for me! It is only missing more LED. I then added a other set of 20 LED.

There is never engough LED in a project!

Step 37: Final Product

Picture of Final Product


I am very happy on how this turns out!

It is very bright and puts out a lot of light and it is perfect for night light or ambiant light.

- Interchangeable lamp design.
- Nice looking.
- Give out a great light that is useful.
- You girlfriend will like it.

- All the batteries are in parallel so if there is one weak battery, it will suck down the juice of all of the other batteries.
- The lamp need to be activated every night. I am presently working on a circuit that would power the joules thief at night.
- No dimmer, I could think about that. I wonder if we could implement that in the joule thief. Playing with the coil. Changing the ratio of the transformer...

Here is how I did the second lamp design

Step 38: Stastistics

Picture of Stastistics

Here are my drawings of the original ideas.

All my pictures where taken with my Sony DSC-W1 5mega pixel. I am changing camera when they receive the new one in a couple of weeks, I will buy the new W290.

I took 255 pictures!!! I also took a lot of videos! The hard part is choosing the perfect one.

Here are the hours I work on the intructables.

Saturday, March 14
15h00 to 21h30

Sunday, March 15
1h30 to 20h13

Monday, March 16
18h00 to 22h00

Wednesday, March 18
18h00 to 22h00

Tuesday, March 19
18h00 to 20h00

A total of more then 21 hours and I did not count the time writting this.

I hope you enjoy this design!

Take care!

Qu�bec, Canada


T0BY (author)2015-06-19

This a great idea! Very elegant.

Abadon125 (author)2009-11-05

 Looks great so far, 1 question though.  What is the bead and homemade transformer for?  What does it do?


robomaniac (author)Abadon1252009-11-05

the bead is the transformer core. Like any other transformer, you have a core to make the magnetic field move from the primary to the secondary.

ppanchal1 (author)robomaniac2012-10-05

is this a ac-dc trans. or will it pump up the voltage ??????????

ppanchal1 (author)robomaniac2012-10-05

is this a ac-dc trans. or will it pump up the voltage ??????????

Cyborg2004 (author)2012-02-28

I didn't had any problems with mine :D all this light with an almost depleted battery :D

mg9990 (author)2012-01-05

does it have a power switch or do you just take the batteries out? I don't know very much about power switches. I saw a page labeled power switch, and i looked at the pictures and read it, but wasn't really sure about it...

the_burrito_master (author)2011-11-16

I must get myself a nibbler how thick of metal can it handle?

onceuponatimeforever (author)2011-07-22

What is the diameter size of the heat shrink that you used?

d2j5 (author)2011-06-02

this thing is awesome! but can it be made to use different types of batteries such as AAA or C?

Munchys (author)d2j52011-06-12

Sure! You have to make some adjustments for them though

ruaidhriodj (author)2011-06-02

am i right in thinking that if you un-plug the lamp it will short out the batteries?

Zem (author)2011-05-21

Hey, great job on this. It was easy to follow, and understand! I really liked how you saw the design, and basically made it work! Again, great job, 5* :)

oanderson (author)2011-05-01

Just a thought, and it's not nice but probably true. I think that some nasty people are going to put cigarette butts in where the batteries should go. :(

sbulleit (author)2011-04-27

You should seriously think about getting a patent for that and selling it!

FrozenIce (author)2011-02-21


UNIT_A4B1 (author)2011-02-08

This minus the LEDs plus mintyboost = charger

UNIT_A4B1 (author)2011-02-08

Would a PN2222 transistor work (instead of a 2N2222)
(full text :
W 83)

UNIT_A4B1 (author)UNIT_A4B12011-02-08

a PN2222 transistor works as well as the 2 cited above

alenoe1974 (author)2011-01-31

Very good project, it's beautiful, witty, decorative ... what else? EXCELLENT!

Chaos Cat (author)2010-12-30

beautiful idea and instructable! c:... i always had lots of batteries i can't use anymore, so this is really useful... i love u. :)

jpcborce15 (author)2010-10-26

does this have a schematic and foil layout?

Sandisk1duo (author)2010-10-10

What if you implemented a VU meter chip?

Basic Idea:
As the room gets louder more levels of leds light up.

You would also need to use an amplifier too

transistorguy (author)2010-10-06

I'm worried about the power consumption from the LEDs. It seems that when I try this, all of the LEDs in the circuit get dim. I would like them brighter. Anyway I can do this? I'm thinking a more powerful transistor....

Roxy 143 (author)2010-09-05

Double Awesome!!!!!!

EdurusFas (author)2010-07-28

I'm planning on using the circuit for various types of batteries - some may be spent more than others. With that in mind, I am worried about having too much power from all the batteries. Do you have a suggestion for that (maybe an additional resistor in the circuit someplace)? Thanks!

EdurusFas (author)2010-07-27

I can totally understand why you'd say "Screw it": I have made two circuits and neither one works for me. I have been trying to see if there is any way to verify the transformer is working - but since I am a novice, I don't know how to make sure it is working so I can rule that out as a problem. But, I won't give up - I'm still going to try again, and gain, and again :)

EdurusFas (author)EdurusFas2010-07-27

I got it!!!!:) It took me a while, but I finally got the tranformer to work :)

richardcole (author)2010-07-26

very very very very very nice tutorial... <3.. is fun and useful ... thanks to provide us.. your ideaaaa.........

EdurusFas (author)2010-07-24

Is there a subsitiution for the ferrite bead item? I'm trying to make this by using stuff from junked components, and I don't have any ferrite bead items. (I have junked walkman version cd players for parts - but haven't seen any ferrite bead items in them). Thanks

robomaniac (author)EdurusFas2010-07-24

I seen people use a nail! You will have to wrap the wire over itself or something.

EdurusFas (author)robomaniac2010-07-24

Thanks! I was able to find one. In cigarette phone chargers that have a light, there is a ferrite bead. After getting this piece, I realized that the circuits I have from junked items do not have the proper transisitor on them. So, I have to look a bit more for the parts. I cannot wait to make this item. Thanks Again for such a nifty instructable :)

arvee1991 (author)2010-06-27

the ferrite bead is can get it out of an old cfl lamp

TheChemiker (author)2010-06-21

How long does it run on a full set of dead batteries?

robomaniac (author)TheChemiker2010-06-21

I did not test it yet. I normally power the thing with 1 AA battery for the entire night and then turn it off during the day. I did not try using more then 1. I will try it out now. I will put 4 battery with 1.35V each.

robomaniac (author)robomaniac2010-06-21

HAHAHA! I went to put the batteries and it was already FULL of batteries! I think my DAD had some fun with the lamp! ok the lamp was powered on at 11h15 PM monday. average voltage is 1.35V green and white LED are ON (very bright)

robomaniac (author)robomaniac2010-06-26
OK we are saturday night and the light is VERY dim that is 5 days!

It was powered for 120Hours! AMAZING!
  • battery #1 = 1,32V
  • battery #2 = 1,10V
  • battery #3 = 1,84V
  • battery #4 = 0,82V

I plug the 1,32V battery alon in the lamp and everything light up nicelly! I will let the battery rest for a few hours.

I am sort of filtering the good battery from the bad. battery #1 and #2 seems to be very good! I should do the same with new battery.
TheChemiker (author)robomaniac2010-06-21

You just filled it all the way up? Wow, well now you can test it.

robomaniac (author)TheChemiker2010-06-21

I just added 4 battery only. I don't know where all the dead batteries in the house went...

TheChemiker (author)robomaniac2010-06-22

Now you have an excuse to use up the power in all of the battery powered things in you house!

TheChemiker (author)2010-06-21

You and your stupid laser you had on hand!

robomaniac (author)TheChemiker2010-06-21

yep! I really miss that laser!

TheChemiker (author)robomaniac2010-06-22

Why don't you have acess to it anymore?

robomaniac (author)TheChemiker2010-06-22

because it was a 4 months internship that is 3000 km (1 864 miles ) away from home! I can still ask my boss to laser cut stuff for me but I have to be 100% sure everything fits, etc

TheChemiker (author)robomaniac2010-06-22

Oh, you lived their for four months? What was the internship? Precision manufactoring, possibly?

robomaniac (author)TheChemiker2010-06-22

yes I lived there for 4 months. I was in the research and development departement and was in charge of making new kits and playing with cool stuff.
Here is the instructables of Solarbotics:

And here is a kit I made:

TheChemiker (author)2010-06-21

I like laser cut more. =D

tato312 (author)2010-06-11

can I use a C9015 transistor instead of the N3904/ N2222? I really dont know which is the difference between them thnks

robomaniac (author)tato3122010-06-11

hello I check the datasheet of the 9014 and it seems to be a general purpose transistor like the 2N3904. It can drive 150mA. The 2N3904 can do 200mA.

2N3904/ 2N2222 = C9014 NPN Small Signal
2N3906 C9015 PNP Small Signal

the 2N2222 can drive a lot more current, 1000mA!

so yes that could work

have fun!

tato312 (author)2010-06-11

or maybe a C9014 transistor (a NPN transistor too) instead of the N2222? would it still work?

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a French Canadian that loves robots and embedded electronics. I work on all kinds of cool projects, like a high-power electric push scooter ... More »
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