The Raspberry Pi Nixie Tube Shield HAT is a brand new HAT from DIY electronics designer Marcin Saj. This HAT brings the Raspberry Pi the functionality to utilize Nixie tubes. For those who don’t know what a nixie tube is, it is a glass tube that contains a wire mesh which has multiple different starting points.
This mesh would be shaped into different things, the main thing being numerals. When power is applied to one of the points it causes that wire to be surrounded by an orange glow discharge.
To achieve this discharge the tube is filled with a gas at low pressure, the gas used is usually something like neon which allows it to glow when the voltage is applied.
Nixie tubes are now a somewhat dated bit of technology with it being superseded by LED’s back in the 1970’s, however, due to their look they are still a favorite item with enthusiasts who love the retro look.
Typically it would be incredibly difficult to get a Nixie tube to work with the Raspberry Pi, mainly since it requires over 170 volts of power but this is where Marcin Saj’s Nixie Shield comes in to play. The shield provides a high voltage power supply circuit that can provide the 170 volts needed for the Nixie tube to power on.
The Nixie tube shield HAT is also designed to be highly versatile so you can use a multitude of different size nixie tubes with it by just switching out the base plate that the tubes plug in to.
Marcin Saj has also provided numerous documentation on how to utilize the Nixie shield tube on his Github page, this page is also filled with documentation on the schematics of the shield and boards. This documentation gives more than enough for any enthusiast to get their project up and running with the shield in no time.
The Nixie HAT only requires five of the Raspberry Pi’s 40 GPIO pins allowing it to be very quickly driven, basically just requiring individual pins to be set HIGH or LOW to change what is being displayed on the Nixie tube. Best of all the HAT is compatible with all currently available Raspberry Pi, including the now dated Raspberry Pi 1B+.
The only downside of the shield hat is that you can only utilize one nixie tube at a time, but considering it requires 170 volts to drive a single Nixie tube this is not something the Raspberry Pi can handle by itself. It’s certainly a cool Raspberry Pi accessory that you should definitely check out if you like this kind of stuff.
Currently, you can only get a Nixie shield through Marcin Saj’s IndieGoGo campaign, the campaign currently only has 2 days remaining at the time of publication.