I remember when I powered a small electric motor with heat (and a good amount of it) using a thermoelectric module. However, I had a hard time achieving more than 1 volt. A 15-year-old girl in tenth grade from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada recently got around this problem using a circuit that she discovered on the internet. She was able to power a flashlight/torch that produced 5 lumens of light per square foot (5 foot candles) using only heat from the human hand, which could be useful.
The high efficiency of LEDs makes impressive technologies such as these possible! LED efficiency can now exceed 120 lumens per watt (not the same as lumens/square foot).
The parts required to construct the flashlight cost only $26 and doesn’t need batteries or any complex mechanical systems to generate electricity.
“The final design included mounting the Peltiers on a hollow aluminum tube which was inserted in a larger PVC pipe with an opening that allowed ambient air to cool the tube. The palm wrapped around a cutout in the PVC pipe and warmed the tiles. The result was a bright light at 5 degree Celcius [sic] of Peltier differential. The flashlight worked!”
“Using four Peltier tiles and the temperature difference between the palm of the hand and ambient air, ” she said in her project statement, “I designed a flashlight that provides bright light without batteries or moving parts. My design is ergonomic, thermodynamically efficient, and only needs a five degree temperature difference to work and produce up to 5.4 mW at 5 foot candles of brightness.”
This flashlight landed her the position of finalist at the Google Science Fair. If she wins, she would receive a $50,000 scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
The award ceremony is to commence in September. Winners will be chosen in the age categories: 13-14, 15-16, 17-18.