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Generate electricity from temperature variation.


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Feb 26, 2013
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A device that can generate electricity seemingly out of thin air has been developed by engineers.

Called a thermal resonator, it relies on fluctuations in temperature between day and night to produce electricity.

It can be used without the need for sunlight, batteries or wind, making it ideal for situations where these resources can't be relied upon.

The technology has the potential to power sensors and communications devices for years without the need for batteries.


Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) department of chemical engineering are behind the find.

Their gadget is a twist on a thermoelectric generator, which create power when one side of the device is a different temperature from the other.

This could be due to one side being exposed to sunlight, while the other is covered, for example.

The thermal resonator differs in that it uses natural swings in temperature to take advantage of this effect, meaning it can generate charge even in the shade.

Researchers say that the power levels generated by the new system so far are modest.

However, it outperformed a commercially available pyroelectric material - an existing method for converting temperature fluctuations to electricity - by 300 per cent.


The thermal resonator was created from materials that can capture heat from its surroundings or release it. This was comprised of a metal foam, made of copper or nickel, which was then coated with a layer of graphene.
The foam was then infused with a kind of wax called octadecane, which changes between solid and liquid within a particular range of temperatures.

A proof of concept sample of the material produced 350 millivolts of potential energy and 1.3 milliwatts of power in response to a 10°C (18°F) change of temperature between night and day.

This would be enough to power small environmental sensors or communications systems, according to the researchers.

Such systems could provide low-power but long-lasting energy sources for landers or rovers exploring remote locations, including other moons and planets, says Volodymyr Koman, an MIT postdoc and co-author of the new study.

For such uses, much of the system could be made from local materials rather than having to be premade, he says.

The full findings of the study will be published in the journal Nature Communications.

A new generation of power sources is being created that rely on thermoelectric power to seemingly create electricity out of thin air.
They convert temperature differences directly into electrical energy through a phenomenon called the Seebeck effect.
In 1821, Thomas Johann Seebeck discovered that a thermal gradient formed between two dissimilar conductors can produce electricity.
To do so, they rely on specially created materials which take advantage of a property known as thermal effusivity.
This is the combination of thermal conduction and thermal capacity, or how quickly heat can be distributed through a material and how much heat can be stored.
One side of the device captures heat, which then slowly radiates through to the other side.
One side always lags behind the other as the system tries to reach equilibrium.
In most materials one of these properties is high, while the other is low. Ceramics have low conduction but high thermal capacity, for example.
This perpetual difference between the two sides can then be harvested through conventional thermoelectrics.



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Apr 9, 2018
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Water vapor in humid air can accumulate charge and transfer it to materials it comes in contact with. It is possible to design collectors that exploit this behavior to generate electricity.
May 31, 2014
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Disclaimer: not an expert ,just wondering though how that would work if someone try to mod fridge and turned said fridge into tiny power generator (discrete led lighting ,fan..etc if only for kitchen area?
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Disclaimer: not an expert ,just wondering though how that would work if someone try to mod fridge and turned said fridge into tiny power generator (discrete led lighting ,fan..etc if only for kitchen area?
Modding the said fridge with the sole goal of generating energy would make it a very inefficient -and pointless- generator, if we can call it such to begin with. The system is already fed the form of energy you expect it to output, and between those ends are several steps of unnecessary energy conversions.

However, harvesting the mentioned losses (heat generated by friction, etc) might increase the overall efficiency of the system. IIRC, someone was trying to do so with traditional car engines. I doubt the feasibility of that endeavors on a scenario such as yours, though.
Dec 6, 2005
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Disclaimer: not an expert ,just wondering though how that would work if someone try to mod fridge and turned said fridge into tiny power generator (discrete led lighting ,fan..etc if only for kitchen area?
The heat given back to the fridge to dissipate (by using electricity) would presumably negate any power gains. However, a thermal gradient with an different outside source, such as geothermal, might make the net gain positive. Hard to say without knowing the efficiency number vs. thermal gradient at different temperatures.
May 22, 2015
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1.3mW out of a 10C variation. If we would improve the efficiency 100x, we still wouldn't be able to light up a light bulb.
You'd think this may be of some use for low-power devices. But then again this device itself has to get way, way smaller.

Also, the correct title for this thread is "Generate electricity from temperature variation" ;)


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May 28, 2005
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Nothing new here at all, but it's a clever implementation of TEG's. I'm not surprised that it works, and the output is as low as I'd expect.. I can't see it being useful for much though. Solar panels or even alkaline batteries would be a far more practical and cost effective source of power for whatever low energy device this gadget was intended to power.

@bug Agreed, changing the title :)
Mar 18, 2015
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Disclaimer: not an expert ,just wondering though how that would work if someone try to mod fridge and turned said fridge into tiny power generator (discrete led lighting ,fan..etc if only for kitchen area?
Had something similate 25 years ago ... Just like if you take an air conditioner and install it in reverse and it's a heater (nowadays called a heat pump), using electricity to create heat or cold has long been around using methods other than electrical resistance or adiabatic compression / expansion. In 1994 we purchased a van conversion outfitted for family trips with bed, TV, Nintendo etc... and one of the things we added was a heater / cooler. It also used dissimilar conductors to do it's job. You'd plug it into a ciggie lighter and it would keep all the contents cold.... or heading to Grandmas for easter dinner... just reverse the plug and it kept thiungs warm. This device uses the same principal in reverse.
May 31, 2014
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Ok guys, lets say You convinced me or at least enlighten me a bit in a matter.I guess i'll stick to regullar modding and cut out window in fridge doors add plexi panell , few rgb leds and call it a day