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Canada Technology News Science

Google Science Fair Finalist Invents Peltier-Powered Flashlight 170

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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  • by Jadware ( 1081293 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @08:10PM (#44171649)
    Someone told me this girl will become a billionaire if she can figure out how to make a heat-based car engine out of Peltier tiles. I replied with a long sigh and this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine [wikipedia.org] The Stirling engine was invented in 1816.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @08:26PM (#44171725)
    Being able to get light out of such a tiny current source as a thermocouple is amazing. Since it's just two dissimilar metals in electrical contact to provide the electricity there's plenty of scope to improve the design and get something mass produced for a lot less than $26.
    The summary may confuse people since they may be thinking of peltier cooling, which is providing electricity to create a temperature difference, but the same hardware produces electricity from a temperature difference (and is normally known as a thermocouple in that mode).
  • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @08:52PM (#44171911)

    She's from Victoria, BC. It was almost 90F in Victoria over the weekend. Which is apparently about what it is in Miami right now. It's not all a frozen wasteland up here ya know.

  • by RKThoadan ( 89437 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @09:23PM (#44172101)

    The last time I needed a flashlight I really only needed it for a few minutes to find candles and such. The time before that I was just looking for something in my trunk at night. 20 minutes is more than enough for either of those circumstances. The last time I needed a flashlight to last longer than 20 minutes was probably spelunking over a decade ago.

    In most cases ambient temp was decently lower than my body temp just because it's usually evening/night time when it's needed. I used to have one of the shake-style flashlights, but it seems to have vanished. You pretty much had to shake it constantly for it to work, which made actually looking for things with it quite difficult. In any case, having a flashlight around that I know will work regardless of battery quality is a good thing.

    In short: I would absolutely buy one of these.

  • Get OFF my Lawn! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @09:55PM (#44172271)

    I can not believe the comments I am reading here. There are initiatives all over the world to get more females into STEM stuff and everyone here seems to quibble about the technical details! She's a teenager. I first learned about the Peltier effect in my 4th year at University, yes that was 40 years ago. My kids didn't learn about it in their High Schools either. So much for the U.S. education system. Give the kid a break!

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:03AM (#44173083) Journal

    The "shake" lights are a terrible design, almost as gimmicky as this one . You can go with solar powered lights, so the battery will be kept charged. Or you can go with crank-type flashlights, which will turn a minute of work into several minutes of light.

    Personally, I'm happy with batteries. Low self discharge NIMH batteries are extremely impressive. I have a single, seperate solar battery charger in the event of power outage or hiking, and can be used to power radios, phones, or anything else. And I've got the freedom to select whatever design of light I want, inexpensively, from pocket sized units I carry around, to room-illuminating lantern-replacements, to high intensity lights.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman