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Google Science Fair Finalist Invents Peltier-Powered Flashlight 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-make-a-peltier-powered-bicycle-and-you've-got-an-investor dept.
GTRacer writes "Ann Makosinski, a Canadian student competing in Google's Science Fair, submitted a flashlight which uses temperature differentials to power its LEDs. Her long-time interest is alternative energy because, '[she's] really interested in harvesting surplus energy, energy that surrounds but we never really use.' Using Peltier tiles and custom circuitry, her design currently runs for 20 minutes or so and costs $26. A win at the September finals in Mountain View and/or outside investment could fund further development."
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Google Science Fair Finalist Invents Peltier-Powered Flashlight

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  • She'll go far (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @07:22PM (#44171703) Homepage Journal

    Makosinski admitted there were points in the experiment when she thought it would never work, but said "You just kind of have to keep going.

    Way more important lesson than the circuit design.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @07:45PM (#44171869) Journal

    Her long-time interest is alternative energy because, '[she's] really interested in harvesting surplus energy, energy that surrounds but we never really use

    The thing her presentation is missing is any acknowledgment that she has actually learned something, and realizes now that her flashlight is a neat little science trick, but otherwise terribly impractical.

    It only works for a few minutes, as the flashlight heats up to match your body temperature, and wouldn't work at all where ambient temps are remotely similar to body temperature. She also got only a tiny amount of power and light out of it, which could be provided for weeks or months by a watch battery without the expensive peltier in the mix.

    Slightly more interesting than vinegar and water mixed together in a model volcano, but the real question is whether she learned something valuable in all of this.

  • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @07:46PM (#44171889)
    The summary and article are incorrect. The Peltier effect is converting a voltage difference into a temperature difference. In this case, it is the Seebeck effect being used to convert a temperature difference into a voltage difference. So-called "Peltier devices" can work both ways, but aren't typically called thermocouples ("thermocouple" usually used for a device intended to convert temperature to voltage), even if they are in strictly technical terms.

    The Seebeck effect was discovered first, so referring to it as the Peltier effect should be considered inappropriate (if not insulting to Thomas Johann Seebeck).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @07:59PM (#44171949)

    She "invented" it by finding an circuit online, copying it, and buying some Peltier tiles off of eBay? WTF?

    This stupid girl just did what every working engineer does - even the NASA engineers - take shit off the shelf and design from it!

    If she was REALLY smart, she's mine her own copper, done her own research, discovered chemistry and physics on her own, and well, just did it without all this nonsense of living in an industrial society!

    REAL inventors reinvent in the wheel everytime they need one!

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @08:04PM (#44171991)

    She said she's getting about 5mw of power from it, which sounds pretty decent from just a 5 degC temperature differential *and* using circuitry to increase the voltage. Should be quite visible in the dark, even enough to read from if held close to a book. At least until the aluminum heats up from her hand and the hole in the middle turns out to be inadequate to sink enough heat to maintain the temperature differential under most conditions (though she's in Canada, so maybe that's not such a problem there :-) ).

    In comparison typical 2000mAh alkaline AA cell can support 5mw for about 600 hours, but if you can't afford alkaline batteries (or are someplace where you don't have easy access to them), then this flashlight may be better than nothing. Though a crank-up generator flashlight might be brighter and more usable.

    It may not save the world, but it's a great science fair project.

  • Re:Invented??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @08:25PM (#44172115)

    She "invented" it by finding an circuit online, copying it, and buying some Peltier tiles off of eBay? WTF?

    Yeah, and if you think that's bad, you should see how Intel does pretty much the same thing and they are making billions of dollars off of it! All they did was look up a transistor design from 50 years ago, hook up billions of them in an integrated circuit, stamp their name on it and sell it for hundreds (or even thousands!) of dollars to unsuspecting users that could have built it themselves if they wanted to.

    Losers! (sorry for the correct spelling, stupid autocorrect didn't let me type Loosers!")

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @11:28PM (#44172949)

    This stupid girl just did what every working engineer does - even the NASA engineers - take shit off the shelf and design from it!

    Yeah, and that's why we call that "engineering". It's distinctly different from "inventing" anything or doing "science".

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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