Real Minecraft Furnace Generates Electricity From Coal

There’s a furnace in Minecraft that is used to power all kinds of things in the game. [Joel] of Joel Creates decided he wanted to build a real-world replica, and did exactly that.

The furnace consists of a 30 cm aluminium cube, inside which the coal is burned. Thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are then placed on the sides of the furnace to turn the heat into useful electricity. The TEGs are installed in a sandwich of aluminium plates designed to maximize heat transfer through the TEGs themselves. They’re fitted with heatsinks to help create the maximum thermal gradient for greater power output. The entire setup is housed in a larger aluminium cube that’s finished to look like the Minecraft furnace — achieved by using a CNC machine to draw on the aluminium with high-temperature Sharpies.

With the coal a-burning inside, the furnace was able to generate enough power to run its own cooling and exhaust fans. It even had a little power left over to charge a phone. Overall though, [Joel] hopes that with some improvement, it can one day power his Minecraft car replica up to its top speed of 25 mph.

22 thoughts on “Real Minecraft Furnace Generates Electricity From Coal

  1. Coal-fired power in Australia (50%, 2011)
    Coal power in the United States (30.4%, 2016)

    Not saying we can save the world, but keep going. Personally I’d rather have green Thorium molten salt reactors, but that is a loaded topic too for the anti-nuclear kids these days. Btw, they get less and less critical the warmer they run. Negative feedback loop as safety.

      1. Nuclear power is safe and reliable but has practical issues (it’s expensive to build, and by the time you’re done building the power plant other technologies will have gotten even cheaper. Also, you can’t easily turn it on and off to match demand). It’s a good fit for some places, but we aren’t seeing a large proliferation of it because solar, hydro, and wind are a lot more profitable right now. Maybe once we’ve replaced enough that we don’t have coal and gas as backup for when the wind stops blowing, nuclear energy is going to be more enticing.

        1. Nuclear is expensive to build due to all the roadblocks the ignorant opposers of it (who flat out refuse to listen to anything that refutes the BS they spew) throw in the way of getting nuclear power plants built.

          1. I haven’t seen a viable solution for long term storage of nuclear waste, at least here in Germany. The only proposal is a rotting mine where salty water will slowly eat through any kind of containment over the next few decades or centuries. Also maintenance of our plants as well as those in done neighboring countries had some issues in the past. That’s why I’m not a fan of more nuclear energy, even though in general I’m fairly sure that it is possible to build fairly safe reactors. But again an honest discussion would be necessary, not just saying “they’re safe” because you can’t rule out accidents completely. So is it one accidents per 100000hrs of operation or per million or what? That’s what needs to be discussed and as long as things like that aren’t addressed I would vote against them in s referendum. Doesn’t mean I’m dumb.

        2. Nuclear power being expensive is a meme by now. Germany pays DOUBLE on electricity compared to 72% nuclear France. Even storage of legacy waste is solved in bentonite sheets and copper barrels.

      2. Climate Change is a scam… The main, if only concern is to eliminate CO2 production. Very little, if anything is being done to address the more potent, strong ‘greenhouse’ gasses. CO2 is crucial to all life on this planet. Everything living, is based on carbon molecules. And that carbon comes from CO2. Plants are the only living thing that takes in carbon, directly from the environment. Plants provide food, the dietary carbon everything else needs to exist. Green energy may be marketed as ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’, but reliance on solar and wind is always going to be disappointing, when people need the energy the most. Not to mention all the farm land cleared of vegetation, to farm energy. Winter snow and ice will reduce energy production, when people need it most.

  2. The little ADHD engineer in my head is screaming at seeing those heat sinks with the fins horizontal instead of vertical and expecting good convection heat removal.
    Heat rises, put the fins vertical if you are not forcing air over them with fans.

  3. Having worked on a DARPA program that attempted to use TEGs, I can confidently say he will never be able to power his cart with anything this size. The absolute best TEGs are specified as 10% efficient, and you’ll find that those specs are extremely generous to say the least. They are theoretical numbers that are not achievable in the real world. They also assume absolutely perfect temperature distribution on both the hot and cold side – no gradients allowed. Then they assume that you are able to suck absolutely all the waste heat out of the cold side, which is REALLY hard to do with a passive system. In the end, a practical use of a “35 W” TEG resulted in maybe 2 W.

    1. It’s likely he didn’t do any research on the capabilities of TEGs he used or worst, he knew fully how little power he would get but knew it was enough to make a video and get views and likes from it. His passive cooling using the heatsinks incorrectly oriented for convected heat removal was another clue there was little engineering effort put into the project. Looks good though and that’s what counts for video views.

    2. TEGs seem to mostly be a “whole other problem” masquerading as a solution…

      Client: I have a heat source and want to draw 1W on 12V for lifetime of 5 years.
      Engineer with a clue: So where do you want to put the 4.5kW/h battery?

      1. A bit harsh, but not entirely unfair.

        There are many places they can be used usefully, and maybe even some times they are the best option for any number of reasons.

        For instance an interesting use I saw somewhere fairly recently used them as part of the ‘rear’ walls on a woodburning stove in a tiny space, a narrow boat I think it was – can’t insulate the rear walls were the heat leaving the stove is basically wasted enough, that would take to much volume to still fit in the small space, so instead slide a few TEG in, they don’t take up much space and you can actually get something from the heat that would otherwise have been largely wasted… I can’t quite recall all the details, but with how cheap, thin and durable a TEG is, even if you are not really using them near their optimum in terms of generating energy its effectively free power from your waste heat.

        Or in the case of your example perhaps the environment is a bit too hostile for a battery and the desired power draw is way too low to be worth trying to build a Stirling engine to suit – and that would be assuming the ‘heat source’ is hot enough to make one of those really work efficiently anyway – which may mean a TEG setup is the right choice…

  4. I dunno where you could get coal at any reasonable price. I’ve made my own biochar in the back yard, though. I dug a pit and burned a bunch of limbs and got 35 gallons for the garden. It should work in a forge, barbeque or furnace.

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