Introduction: Nice Easy Magnetic Generator Light

Picture of Nice Easy Magnetic Generator Light

People look like they are having a good time charging up those other magnetic torches but it's definitely more fun to watch. This one may require 2 hands but at least you can go all night if you want to.

All you need is a stepper motor and some White LEDs, but a handle is optional.
If you think you have a stepper motor but aren't sure, turn it and see if you can feel the steps.

This motor came out of a big old floppy diskette drive but I think they are very common in other stuff
I took apart, like printers.

A resistor is probably a good idea because it's so easy to make power that you can burn out the LEDs.

It's easy to find the wires on a stepper motor that will light up an LED
but soon I'll show a good way to connect several.
Sorry about the blurry picture I'll update this and fix it soon.

Ok here it goes, this is one time that it's nice that the camera takes so long to take a picture.
I just fixed it up a bit and found something like a propeller to crank it with too.
And dont get mad... because that finger is not the one it probably looks like.

Step 1: Step 1

Picture of Step 1

Under construction.

I know I'm being bad but the magnet contest is almost over.

The schematic below is basically how I have the stepper hooked up now.
The diodes are white LEDs. The resistors are not there yet, so sometimes the LEDs blow.
The resistors will probably be 100 or 470 ohms.
They may be moved off the center tap because they really belong in series with each LED.
I may add reversed LEDs in parallel to get twice as much light,
but then I expect the motor to be harder to turn.

There was a crank on the motor but someone broke it off.
It was just a wire with a loop at the end to put a finger in and go around in circles.
This particular motor can blow LEDs without the crank which is why I didn't bother fixing it Yet.
It's pulley can be turned instead.

Stepper motors may have 4 (no center taps) or 5 (common center taps) or 6 (2 center taps)
in their stator coils. The rotor is a magnet with lots of virtual north and south poles so that
there are a lot more than 4 steps per revolution. Too many to count easily. It seems to have
end pieces with lots of teeth.

Figuring out the wires can be done with a meter. Except for the 5 wire motors there is
no voltage or continuity between the two coils. The center taps will have half as much voltage
or resistance than just the ends of the coils.

For 4-wire motors you can't just have 2 LEDs facing each other like this,
need to reverse the polarity of one (and maybe put it in parallel with the other one,
and leaving out that LED is another option).

Summary, you can easily connect up to 8 LEDs to the stepper motor to use all of it's power generating phases,
but you can also get the LEDs to light just by trying different wires,
and current limiting resistors seem practical and essential.

A hand crank, or a pulley with a finger-hole in it is very good too,
because otherwise just turning the shaft gives annoying pulsing light output.

This does not "charge up". It produces light as soon as you turn it, and until you stop.
But it could... batteries or capacitors may be added. Maybe I will do that later.

Step 2: Afterthoughts

I guess I decided that the schematic I made on the last page is good, and 100 ohm resistors are good.
It is bright enough to see and walk around outside in the woods at night as long as I don't drop it.
(Maybe I should put phosphorescent matter on it so I can find it in the dark.)
I am very surprised at how easily the steppers make a useful amount of light compared to real products.

I guess later I'll make one that uses a 4-wire stepper, draw another schematic for it,
and maybe add a couple more sharper pictures of both lights that clearly show the works.

Tired... more later. Oops, sorry, I guess this is it.


elainek (author)2011-03-03

Reading the posts, and I see where a lot of "can't create energy" thinking enters in - true, we can't 'create' energy, but we can tap all kinds of 'free energy'. There's a wonderful batch of information in a free, downloadable book - PJK book - it can be viewed at and other sites.

I liked the comparison of a sail boat crossing the ocean; the energy put in by humans was minimal compared to the 'free energy' of the wind. Energy is all round us in many forms - sound, wave, vibration, magnetic, electric, heat, water, decomposition - learning to recognize and tap into these isn't 'free' energy or 'creating' energy, but it's the principle of 'catching the wind' with a sail.

The PJK book is around 2000 pages of massive information! I'm not experienced enough to absorb a lot of it, but it's fascinating.

rpvanpatt (author)2010-02-05

 hey, I was wondering if you have had any progress on this project?  I wand to make something similar, like a dynamo charger or something.  You may have said already, but what are all the parts that you need to make you basic plan, and maybe if you know how to add in somethin like AAA battery charger to it.  Thanks

paper warrior (author)2006-10-13

just an idea: Attach an electric motor to the generator instead of leds and replace the crank with the moving part of the motor then tap it for infinite energy.

CameronSS (author)paper warrior2007-02-08

uh... no. Wouldn't work. If you had a 100% efficient system you could make the motors spin infinitely, but friction will slow them down, and you cannot create energy. Well, you can, but it requires a nuclear reactor, a nuclear or thermonuclear bomb, or a star.

girrrrrrr2 (author)CameronSS2007-06-26

what if you had a few highoutput generators..., a few doubling circuts..., a motor..., a gew gears..., a chain..., and a few batterys..., and of course batterys... you can see where i am going with this right... would this work better???

CameronSS (author)girrrrrrr22007-07-01

No...I will explain as well as my brain-dead mind will allow. I just got home from a week of travel and I leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning. If you had a 100% efficient system, it could run indefinitely, but without an output. If you tap any energy, whether it be a sound, lights, motion, anything, it will slow the system down. Perpetual motion is physically impossible. I drive an electric truck, and you have no idea how many times I have heard the comment, "You know, if you hooked a generator to one of the wheels, you could recharge the batteries and extend the range." It DOESN"T WORK.

jimbo333 (author)CameronSS2009-05-25

perpetual motion/energy is not physically impossible, we just have not accomplished it yet. with the right system it could work.

VIRON (author)CameronSS2007-07-02

Regenerative braking reclaims SOME of the energy in electric
vehicles when you stop or go down a hill, and that energy was
used first to get up to speed and up the hill. This is not perpetual
motion because lots of that energy was lost by friction, but it does
"extend the range" just not to infinity.

A nice illusion of PMM can be made only when you have an external
energy source and a load that doesn't need all of it. For example,
clocks can be powered by a barometer and watches can be
self-winding. Calculators can run on very small solar panels.
Even a weak solar / magnetic levitating motor is easy to build.
Solar magnetic levitating motor

CameronSS (author)VIRON2007-07-06

I never said that regenerative braking didn't work. We would hook it up on our truck if it was an AC motor, but its DC, which can't do regen without a huge cost. The concept I always hear, and all the other guys in the local EV club hear, is to attach a generator to one, two, or four wheels, depending on the genius, which would run constantly, thereby topping off the battery pack and giving us infinite range. If that worked, someone would have put it into use in the last hundredsomething years that EVs have been around. Regen works great! I know some people with Solectria Forces, which were nice AC drive cars made some time ago, factory converted Chevy Geos. They have drum brakes, but they are never used because the automatic regen works so well. It just doesn't reclaim that much energy, and not what Toyota wants you to think the Prius does.

girrrrrrr2 (author)CameronSS2007-07-01

i was just putting that out there... and i only ment would this work better as longer... but thanks for explaining it to me...

Punkguyta (author)CameronSS2007-02-12

Lol, I can't wait till scientest discover a way of actually creating more matter, as for now, we are simply reusing matter. So for people that don't know what I'm talking about, there is no way to actually "make more matter" but rather it gets processed and turned into something else. Sorry for the crappy explanation, but it's hard as hell to explain that. Perhapes you have a better explanation?

VIRON (author)Punkguyta2007-02-14

You can create all the virtual matter you want. You also have two choices: almost totally free or ridiculously expensive.

Punkguyta (author)VIRON2007-02-14

Virtual matter, yes, but as far as actual matter, soil, elements, materials that make up this world all get reused and made into other materials, so in other words, we can't actually "destroy" or "create" more "matter" because this is all we have to work with. That's what the laws of physics say, I'm a bit rusty on that one, but I remember have a in depth discussing with my science teacher about it one day.

VIRON (author)Punkguyta2007-02-14

There is plenty of real matter in the universe. How much more do you want?

Punkguyta (author)VIRON2007-02-15

Not saying there isn't plenty, but just saying, there isn't a way to add matter, just use what is already there

Slushba132 (author)Punkguyta2007-06-24

I understand you. Everything in this entire existence is recycled on its own to make way for new things to come and go. planets and stars will blow apart and collect to make new planet and stars. Trees will die so other things can eat it and die and then give back to the trees which once helped it. I tried bringing this up in science class and no one understood me at all. I guess thats the problem with being 14. I don't see why we recycle though. If you look at it aren't we just making carbon fumes melting stuff were to impatient to just let sit there and decompose?

Punkguyta (author)Slushba1322007-06-24

Well yes and no, because we could let these things decompose, but because a lot of the stuff in the landfills are mostly man made products, they tend to take several decades for things to start decomposing, I honestly don't think anyone has that kind of patience. You know why they're melting things down even more today than 20 years ago? Because everyone knows natural supplies are running out.

Slushba132 (author)Punkguyta2007-06-26

You know what I don't get. Why don't stores just sell us the bottles and then sell the contents separately like from a soap dispenser all you would have to do is get like one bottle for shampoo and just refill it. But then again I guess the petroleum bottle's are made and the chemicals that are made after reusing...Why don't we just get rid of plastics all together.

VIRON (author)Slushba1322007-06-26

How about: Ceramics, pottery, and glass. They've been around since beginning of history, and they're natural, and still around, in museums, along with old bones and rocks. But that's ok.

Slushba132 (author)VIRON2007-06-26

Yeah but ceramics decompose just as slow as plastics do. We still have pots from hundreds of years ago. I think iff we switched to pots we would have the same problem with not being to wait for it to decompose naturally.

VIRON (author)Slushba1322007-06-27

Well like you said we could just refill them forever. And if one breaks we just crush it back into sand and dust if we want to get rid of it.

Slushba132 (author)VIRON2007-06-27

Yeah but people would have to learn to get used to some sand and clay particles in our drinks. It does seem like a good idea though. The problem is converting the whole world away from what its use to. That and we still have to figure out an alternative way to make power.

Think of how impractical it would be...would you want to go food shopping and carry all of those heavy pots, having to worry about them breaking in your car on the ride home? "Damn, my Pepsi just busted all over my trunk...again!". Many safety issues. Furthermore, sure you could refill them...but what would you utilize to carry and transport said soap or shampoo from its source to your now empty bottle/pot? Probably another bottle or pot...and thinking of how lazy people can be, who would want to sit there and pour shampoo from one bottle into another when you have another full bottle (and you'd still have one empty bottle!). Good idea in theory though!

Slushba132 (author)Punkguyta2007-06-26

And actually come to think of it. Mass and matter can be converted. So I guess there could be more matter just at the expense of overall energy.

Punkguyta (author)Slushba1322007-06-26

Yes you are right, trash can be converted even. But we don't really have any way of making it efficient enough, the different trash plants that do process garbage and melt things down aren't that big because that's just it, it's too in-efficient and too much pollution/heat loss. I figure it, unless we can find some new kind of matter out in space and then convert it to material usable here, we're totally fucking screwed eh?

Slushba132 (author)Punkguyta2007-06-26

I kind of think if maybe we cant fix the problems we have here on earth without going and trashing another planet maybe the species doesn't deserve to live. If we can't change as a species I kind of hope we die out before we drag the whole planet down with us. It doesn't seem that bad in the long run to trade one species for a whole worlds existence, even if that species is our own.

Punkguyta (author)Slushba1322007-06-27

I'd have to agree 100% with you on this.

Punkguyta (author)VIRON2007-06-26

oh, not only that, but do we have a way to not only gather unknown materials from space, or even process it into anything we can use? Thought so, we can't, this civilization we call earth is such a fucking fluke.

VIRON (author)CameronSS2007-02-14

An electric car with solar panels would be really nice, but to Make something that just spins until the sky falls should be easy to do.

CameronSS (author)VIRON2007-02-14

I drive an electric car. Okay, so technically it's a pickup, but it was built in the early '80s and still works perfectly. The problem with solar panels is that they are so darned inefficient. It's nearly impossible to find a commercial panel more than 15% efficient, and NASA's space station panels are only around 25-30% efficient.

VIRON (author)CameronSS2007-02-14

The efficiency of an ambient power supply is less relevant when the ambient power is available for free whether you use it or not. Oversimplified, a free trip to church on sunday is a free trip, even if it's theoretically possible to get another one on saturday. If you just stay home, that much free power can run the radio and the fan for free, forever.

CameronSS (author)VIRON2007-02-14

but less efficiency means more is required to create the same output, which ultimately costs more.

VIRON (author)CameronSS2007-02-15

Initially costs more, unless you look for bargains and pay less. Also, if you drive a lot but not far from home, I recommend a wind turbine, because it blows away solar power (unless you never have any wind). I know a farmer who runs all his lamps on batteries charged by a windmill. Also consider the wind as a power source for a compressed air motor vehicle. It's real. Wow?

Genevamech (author)VIRON2007-02-23

More importantly, low efficiency means you need more which has costs BEYOND money. It means more material and, in the case of solar power, more physical space.

For example, 100% solar powered cars will never exist. This is because there jsut isn't enough solar energy shining on the footprint of the average car to actually power the car. Your average car is 6 feet wide by 12 feet long, or 72 square feet. At roughly 100 watts per square foot (optomistic), you would need 7.5 square feet of solar panel for every 1 horsepower assuming *everything* was 100% efficient (which is thermodynamically impossible).

So a 72 sq.ft. vehicle can't possibly be more than about 9.6hp unless you use batteries to store energy when not driving or some other energy source.

After you factor in real world inefficiencies (15% solar panels, 80% driver electronics and battery storage, 80% motors) you're down to just 10 watts per square foot, or ONE horsepower for a full-sized vehicle. Good luck with that.

Slushba132 (author)Genevamech2007-06-24

Also going along with Einstein's theory the more solar panels you need the heavier the car will get and require more solar panels which in turn way the car down more so nothing could be 100% efficient unless its power supply were weightless. And even going back to the beginning the "tapping" I assume would require chemical energy from your body. Not really certain though because I haven't actually read the instructable...whoops.

paper warrior (author)CameronSS2007-02-15

Why not just put it in a container with no air and give it an additional spin once in a while.

n0ukf (author)paper warrior2007-06-04

Air is not the only friction to consider, there's also gear friction, bearing friction, magnetic friction (or drag) and electrical friction (resistance).

imakethings (author)2009-03-06

you can also use a geared motor

FrenchCrawler (author)2006-09-25

FrenchCrawlersays: You do realize that there is still one week left before this month is over? Why not just leave it unpublished until it's finished or at least until you have some kind of schematic for it to post (even use paint to draw us a simplified picture of how it will work). How ever it works, it looks (as blurred as it may be) like we're all in for a treat. Don't let us down :P

I didn't notice that I copied the "FrenchCrawler says:" part when I copied and deleted it to revise it to be shorter :P

ds (author)FrenchCrawler2007-12-27

Not sure if this is the right thread to post, bear with me i'm an electro-noob. :P I understand how a battery works, a chemical reaction creates electron flow, until the chemical reactions are reduced to the point where not enough electrons are released to be of any use. With rechargeable batteries, the electrons are put back into the battery from an external electrical source. Now generators create a magnetic field which makes electrons flow thru wires and thus making electricity. Since generators can work for years or longer, what I want to know is where all those electrons are coming from??? Are they coming from the ground??? I have a small hand crank flashlight, without a battery, and it's still working after about 10 years. I ask again, where do the electrons come from???

VIRON (author)ds2007-12-27

The electrons stay in the atoms of the battery or generator and the circuit, none are lost or gained. They are always holding the metal and chemicals together in the battery and generator, but electricity does make them flow through the circuit. When using up a battery, the chemicals get equal charges, and recharging it moves some electrons back to one side of the battery. The generator doesn't get used up because it pumps electrons using the force of being turned, instead of using a chemical reaction that eventually reaches an equilibrium.

ds (author)VIRON2007-12-29

Thanks for the reply, but just a few more questions...maybe I should have written electro-noob for my username when I created my account. :lol: If your stepping motor Magnetic Generator Light above had parts that were guarenteed to work for 50 years (for arguments sake), would the LEDs generate light for 50 years or would the amount of electrons diminish??? Or to put it another way does a generator convert mechanical energy to electrical energy without any loss of electrons???

VIRON (author)ds2007-12-29

A generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy without loss of electrons, especially if it is made in such a way that it will not rust nor wear out it's parts with friction and erosion. There will be some energy lost as heat, but not as electrons. If something is losing electrons, it's probably radioactive.

ds (author)VIRON2007-12-29

OK thanks, now I understand, energy cannot be created, it can only be converted from one form to another. :D Back to the topic, why did you use a stepping motor, wouldn't any motor work??? And isn't a motor and generator the same thing, they just have opposite uses, or are there any parts inside that's different???

VIRON (author)ds2007-12-30

A stepping motor generates much more power than a toy motor when it's turned slowly by hand without belts or gears. Not all kinds of motors and generators work as well both ways. For example, motors that don't have magnets in them might not be able to generate.

ds (author)VIRON2008-01-03

In a generator, the number of wire loops defines the voltage, the thickness of the wire defines the amperage, and the RPM's defines the frequency in Hertz, is this correct? Would having weak or strong magnets in the generator have any effect on voltage, amperage? Thanks again for the replies. :D

VIRON (author)ds2008-01-03

Generally true. The frequency of a simple AC generator in Hz would probably be RPM / 60. Magnetic field strength relates to current. RPM also affects voltage, obviously in DC generators.

ds (author)VIRON2008-01-03

I thought all generators only produced AC and was converted to DC with a rectifier.

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