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article image15-year-old creates a flashlight powered by body heat

By Jonathan Lam     Jun 28, 2013 in Technology
Tenth grader Ann Makosinski, with her body heat-powered flashlight, has attained a position within the 15 finalists who will be going to the Google Campus in Mountain View California to compete for the grand prize of $50,000.
Google Science Fair has taken interest in Makosinski's energy conversion invention. Makosinski has been submitting projects to science fairs since Grade 6, and has been particularly interested in alternative energy ever since.
Now she has finally come up with "hollow flashlight" that can be powered by the heat of a user's hand.
Makosinski has been researching different forms of alternate energy and stumbled across a device called the Peltier tiles. Peltier tiles can produce energy when it is heated on one side and cooled on the other. Makosinski experimented with these tile's in her seventh grade science project and thought of them as a way to potentially capture the thermal energy produced by the human body.
Makosinski did some calculations and discovered that the amount of energy produced by the warmth of a person's hand was more than enough energy to power a LED flashlight. Makosinski wasted no time and started her project right away. She bought Peltier tiles from Ebay but the tiles generated only a fraction of the voltage needed. Further research suggested that if she made some changes to the design of the circuit, transformers could be used to boost the voltage.
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." In the end, she came across an article on the web about energy harvesting that suggested an affordable circuit that would provide the voltage she needed when used with a recommended transformer, she said in an online report submitted to Google. This was the solution to making the circuit work.
The flashlight is made up of an aluminum tube, obtained from a mechanical shop at the University of Victoria, where her father works as a laboratory manager. The aluminum was used to transfer the cooler temperatures of the air to one side of the Peltier tiles. Also a PVC tube from Home Depot used to house the aluminum tube, with an opening cut in it to allow a person's hand to come in contact with the other side of the Peltier tiles.
All these materials cost a total of around $26, and if it were to be mass produced Makosinski says it can be manufactured and sold for a much lower price.
Makosinski is looking forward to her trip to the Google headquarters. She adds, "I just can't believe that I actually made it this far."
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