Light LED’s with FIRE!

Reader [Andre] sent in a link which tells us all about this “cool” Copper Oxide Thermoelectric Generator. All you need is a bit of solid copper wire and a gas torch. Burn the wire so it gets a nice coating of oxide. From there, it is a matter of making the 2 sections of burned wire cross at a point and heat up only one of the wires. Whichever is hotter forms a cathode and whichever one is cooler is the anode.

Just one of these junctions is enough to produce a few hundred millivolts, but the author takes it a step further, well 16 steps further. He made a ring of these junctions in series, which is enough to light a bright blue LED. While the author notes that this thing is producing a considerable amount of voltage, its not producing much amperage. This could come in very handy in the future, like if you need some additional LED lighting for your camp stove.

Comments

  1. asheets says:

    I was about to submit this one myself. It is from the same guy that charges old refrigerators with propane and makes his own miniature CRTs.

    I will have to admit that I disagree with his explanation, though. I think (and I have no real way to prove it without my GRC Handbook handy to confirm the dielectric potentials of the materials involved) that the real cause is heating a dielectric junction between cupric oxide and cuprous oxide.

  2. mowcius says:

    Looks like a green LED to me ;)

  3. neorazz says:

    I like the idea but it seems like there would be a more energy effcient way of using that many therms (boiling water minature steam generator …hey you could do both at the same time) I ponder how much power could be created in a chimney configuration with 10 plus layers of these stacked together ?

  4. kyle says:

    amperage = current? seriously

  5. pekko says:

    Wow, this guy’s website has a lot of cool stuff!

  6. Luke says:

    If you run a current through this assembly you get a temperature delta across the layer. Can be used as heater or cooler (actually both at once). I’m just not sure about how efficient it will be compared to commercial peltiers. What also works is running an am or fm receiver from a candle…

    • Havel says:

      Luke has a pretty interesting point there. I’d imagine you can somehow apply this to a coilgun to keep it cool, mine tend to overheat and fry the coils, as well as generate a bit of power to help charge the capacitors. I’m going to have to look into this. Do you think any other easily obtainable combination would work (I can’t just pick up some rare earth metal or something like platinum or some crazy alloy from the local hardware store, ya know?) better than the copper oxide. To Andre, pretty inventive stuff. I always though of peltier junctions as some hunk of silicon that’s only good for cooling your PC. Nice work! I apologize for the long comment.

  7. ibedazzled says:

    his work is awesome. i’ve had lots of fun with the “peculiar sounds from aluminum”

  8. Ted says:

    Just build a steam powered generator; probably easier and more powerful, plus you get steampunk credits.

  9. DainBramage says:

    It would be interesting to try this with some cheap high temp thermocouples (type K maybe?) and compare the results.

  10. Ryan Mercer says:

    That’s pretty cool!

  11. sadffffff says:

    >saying amperage
    >2011

    i seriously hope you dont do this.

    • Amperage is perfectly acceptable in the engineering world. I’ve heard my professors use it interchangeably with current many times at engineering school.

      The same thing happened with expressing the ability of something to a constant level of current. The correct term is ampacity, but everyone just uses current rating or current limit.

  12. ino says:

    Seems like a direct application of the Seebek effect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoelectric_effect#Seebeck_effect

    the inverse being the Peltier effect.

  13. BiOzZ says:

    cant you also use these as basic diodes?

  14. Urza9814 says:

    I remember being fascinated when I was little by something like this in my mother’s old World Book encyclopedia from many decades ago. Only difference is they used a candle instead of a gas torch, and they powered a radio rather than an LED. Wish I could remember how that version worked though; my parents got rid of that encyclopedia years ago.

    • jesse says:

      something like this?

    • echodelta says:

      Early 60’s before hookah times our Catholic grade school got new ‘pedias and there was the picture of a circle of people in India lighting up and listening to the radio. No electricity then, it had a ring of radial thermocouples 20 or more. I can’t remember if it had plans to make it. There is probably a federal violation here. ICE’s run hot, great app!

  15. Dylan says:

    One step closer to a sky lantern rgb display. Just need to get each lantern to know its location and be able to remap the video data on the fly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_lantern

  16. beaglebreath says:

    That is pretty cool. otherwise wasted heat could be used to generate usefull electricity.

    Isn’t this a “Type-U” thermocouple? copper & copper. The Seebek Effect – a few millivolts are generated proportional to the difference in temperature between two wires…(I acknowledge ino for saying so earlier too)…

  17. LifeSizeActionFigure says:

    Coolest use for fire yet!!! Awesome article. I am definitely trying this!

  18. nave.notnilc says:

    semirelated, copper oxide can get you some photovoltaic action, too.

  19. andre says:

    Just so there isn’t any confusion, I didn’t come up with this, just found the page when searching.

    @Dylan Pretty clever, but..
    Surely the light from the sky lantern itself would drown out anything from the LEDs.
    Unless you used like a 5W RGB LED for each?
    Sky lantern radio transmitter OTOH… :-)
    One crystal oscillator, 10 foot wire antenna and voila!

    @nave.notnilc Yeah, have seen this done.

    Its interesting to note that your choice of wire affects this- some wire has added beryllium or other metals which mucks things up or so I hear.

    Someone should try and make a PCB version of this,
    using the copper substrate as one electrode.
    Seems that its the contact area which determines the current, so put several treated wires touching the one copper plate.

    -A

  20. Dan Fruzzetti says:

    could you do it with copper plates and make a cheap peltier junction?

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