A flashlight powered by the heat from the palm of your hand? Yes really.
Ann Makosinski is a Canadian student with bright ideas. Using special 'Peltier' tiles fixed to a hollow tube, she has created an LED flashlight that literally turns on when you hold it, powered by the heat from the palm of your hand.
Peltier tiles work by a type of energy exchange called the thermoelectric effect. The principle is that when one side of a material is warmer than the other, charge carriers move from the higher temperature area to the cooler side - i.e. we get an electrical current.
Ms. Makosinski applied this concept to produce a simple flashlight with LED lights that will surely make the folks at Duracell and EverReady stop and blink. No more need for disposable batteries? Oops. The Peltier tiles were mounted on a hollow aluminum tube that was then put inside another tube made from PVC. A section of the PVC was cut away so the heat from a hand can be transferred to the tiles, while the cooler ambient air moves through the tube, creating a heat differential.
The student spent a whopping $26 on the final prototype, which she has submitted to Google's annual Science Fair Contest. Her invention has landed her in the top 15 finalists from around the world. Should Ms. Makosinski win the first place prize, she'll receive a $50,000 scholarship from Google - not bad! Although we suspect that that figure will be a drop in the bucket compared to what her invention could earn her in the coming years.
With ever more focus on renewable energy sources, it seems the time is right for innovative ideas like this to move to the forefront. And Google is doing a great job of helping to shine a light on these ideas with its annual contest.
Energy doesn't get any greener than this. So well done Ann Makosinski from all of us here at SolarEnergy.com - we hope you make millions!