Generate electricity with a candle

What you see above is a generator that converts heat to electricity. [Reukpower's] thermoelectric lamp is one of those hacks that makes you scratch your head even though you understand why it should work. The heart of the system uses a Peltier cool, just like the thermoelectric solar generator. When there is a temperature differential from one side of the Peltier to the other a small current is generated.

In this case a candle heats one side and a heat sink cools the other. The tiny voltage picked up from the Peltier’s contacts is then boosted using a joule thief. We’ve seen LEDs powered with a joule thief before, benefiting from their own low power consumption. In this case, the boost circuit is scavenged from an emergency phone charger and probably achieves higher efficiency than if he had built it himself.

Comments

  1. Michiel says:

    Hmmmm…, here in my office its hot as h*ll while its freezing outside.
    I thinks this greenhouse effect can be pu to good use in a project like this.
    Make a box out of fresnels and get some peltier elements and your good to go! :)

  2. Chad says:

    I know how about setting the array between a solar water heater and a solar ice maker? Somewhere around 100 F and below freezing is quite a temp difference and you could still use the heat and or cool for other things.

  3. Roly says:

    @pookey
    …and…
    Australia’s “Radio, Television & Hobbies” in the ’60’s featured a very similar stacked thermocouple rings arrangement powered by a small kero lamp, the wires spot-welded rather than soldered. They had a stack of rings to get 9V for a transistor radio, but the trend to lower voltage supplies make them more practical now. Need to find an alternative to the asbestos mounting ‘tho.

    Commercial LPG thermopile sets are available and useful for emergency backup power in unattended locations (e.g. radio repeaters that lose mains power and solar backup during bushfires)

    @Jeditalian
    “doesnt it seem possible that you could use some combination to make North and South magnetic fields, and if that was reversible like a peltier, then you could use magnets as batteries.”

    No, it doesn’t. Magnetic fields can *transport* energy (with some losses) but they cannot *create* energy, contrary to what some “over-unity” mountebanks claim. The first two physical laws of the universe are,
    1. you can’t win, and
    2. you can’t break even.

    @Jaythenovice
    That’s a neat idea. A bit too hot for peliers, but a stack of thermocouples were one of the methods used to power British spy radios during WW2, another being a tiny boiler that was tossed into a fire, coupled to an equally tiny steam engine generator.

    Thermocouples don’t give much voltage per junction, the trick being to get the highest temperature difference between hot and cold junctions, but the stack is just a loop of wire so they can deliver considerable currents.

    Peltiers tend to be more useful where you have lower grade heat, such as the hot coils at the back of the fridge.

  4. razor386 says:

    Someone needs to see the “watt per tea candle” rating. That would give us an idea on the efficiency and would put a candle in a more of a battery category. I would think to raise the efficiency of this further you would need a better heatsink on the top and more thermal insulation on the bottom where you have the heat being trapped and then released into the pelt, as well as a way to further limit the burn rate of the candle you could limit the air moving inward with an enclose and a hole you could change the size of (old wood stove style). Furthermore you would test the efficiency of burning type of wood in a larger scale of this. How big of a bonfire does it take to run my desktop? How is the efficiency of this compared to steam power?

  5. razor386 says:

    Another idea; how many of these in a jacket would it take to power my ipod? The folks up north would benefit more I would assume since they have the greater outside temp to body temp ratio that happens more often than maybe someone in Tx, or Fl.

  6. dushko says:

    @dudegalea -yea, this particular project is a 1pixel thermovision-you can see if it’s hot or not

  7. derek says:

    I want to make a coolant peltier setup in my diesel car. ideally it could be used to run the air conditioner (also consisting of these chips). If i could build a super efficient heat exchanger I would be eliminating a lot of the wasted energy. How about taking a radiator, fill all the fins in with molten aluminum, thermal epoxy (jb weld with aluminum powder?)a large array of peltiers to it maybe two chips thick then thermal glue on a massive heatsink. The motor puts out 93kw to the crank and the engine is about 30% efficient.

  8. conundrum says:

    Yeah, this could work.
    I often wondered if I could wrap high temperature metal tubing around a catalytic converter then harness all that “wasted” heat energy to recharge an auxillary battery for those times you need extra power.

  9. Mike says:

    I did the same with a cooler scavenged from a PC. I now have a candle-powered flashlight! Woohoo! IN YOUR FACE, “USELESS MACHINE” (I have one of those, too!)

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