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Thermoelectric Generator: How to Build One


A thermoelectric generator is a semiconductor device that transforms the heat difference between its two layers into electricity.

It belongs to a class of materials called “thermoelectrics” and are one of auto industry’s greatest hopes in what regards the savings obtained from an internal combustion engine, and is also called “Peltier generator.”

With a Peltier generator, a car can effectively decrease its fuel consumption by recovering part of the energy the engine loses as heat and transferring it to a battery, thus helping power the car electronics and even air conditioning. In the case of hybrid cars, a thermoelectric generator unit could also translate heat into motion.

Here’s how you can develop your own DIY Peltier thermoelectric generator at home:

1. Take two radiators

They have to be big enough for your needs and wet them with thermal fan paste on the place where the Peltier unit will get stuck(you can find it in any IT store/RadioShack).

2. Fabricate a thermal insulator

This is to separate the two radiators. It can be from anything you can think of as long as it fits for your application’s maximum temperature (doesn’t melt). The insulator should not be thicker than the Peltier unit you’ll put between the radiators. Cut an opening of the size and shape of the Peltier unit so it fits perfectly inside the insulator. Also make space for the two wires.

3. Assemble the generator

Put together the two radiators, the insulator with the Peltier unit and apply a heat source on one of the radiators. The longer you wait, the higher the voltage and current (power) you get from the Peltier device.

Of course, everything has its limitations, but with a unit the size of the one in the following video, you’ll easily be able to power small gadgets you have around your home. A bigger thermoelectric generator would serve higher purposes.

Watch the video and do the same! Good luck!


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  2. The instructions say 2 radiators, which should make this simple & effective. So, follow instructions & sandwich the Peltier between 2 radiators or liquid reservoirs.
    1. Put cool water in cold-side reservoir.
    2. Heat mineral oil up to the Peltier module’s maximum working temperature. (Use a thermometer to monitor the oil’s temperature and remove oil from the burner or rocket stove or solar parabolic dish/trough once desired temperature is reached.)
    3. Pour hot mineral oil into the hot-side reservoir.
    4. Use or store electric output.
    5. Reheat mineral oil as needed. Or, heat more mineral oil than you need to fill the reservoir, store excess mineral oil in a thermos and refill hot-side reservoir from thermos as needed.
    Rock on.

  3. Regarding the Peltier generator, do you have to be concerned with power fluctuations from uneven heat when charging, say, a cell phone? How big must the Peltier be to charge an average cell phone?

    • You wouldn’t want to directly hook the peltier to your phone. You probably want some kind of buffer between them, like a capacitor or something.


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