Running out of flashlight batteries may be one of life’s small annoyances, but plunging into the darkness sure feels like a catastrophe, especially if you’re trying to find a fuse box in dark, cobwebbed basement.
However, Ann Makosinski has a solution that could put an end to getting left in the dark. The 15-year old from British Columbia has invented a thermoelectric Hollow Flashlight that shines simply from the heat of your hand.
Makosinski determined that the heat of a person’s palm generates about 57 milliwatts of electricity — more than enough for the half of a milliwatt needed to illuminate her flashlight’s LED.
Key to the Hollow Flashlight are Peltier tiles, which generate electricity when one side of the tile is heated and the other is cooled. Makosinski mounted the tiles and other circuitry inside a hollow aluminum tube, where air inside the tube would cool one side of the tiles, while heat from the user’s hand would warm the other.
Her invention provided a modest amount of light and worked for a half hour at an ambient temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The flashlight I have made is more of a prototype then a final product, but the components in my device are quite strong,” Makosinski wrote. “Of course, if it was to be used and manufactured, I would try to seal off the electronic components in some sort of casing so that it wouldn’t get heavily exposed to the elements (example water), and therefore last longer.”
The Hollow Flashlight has earned Makosinski a spot among the 15 finalists at the Google Science Fair. In September, the Canadian teen will travel Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where Google will choose a winner to receive a grand prize of $50,000 and a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Hear Makosinski wax eloquently about her invention in this video.
Credit: Ann Makosinski, YouTube