Edit: Sweet, I'm on hackaday!

Hello, in this Instructable I will show you how to generate solar power using inexpensive solid state parts and without PV (photovoltaic) cells or panels. I wanted to make this project to see if I could beat the dollars per watt costs of commercially available solar panels.

You only need a few inexpensive parts to build one. It is pretty easy to build and very simple. As far as I know, my idea for the combination of thermoelectric coolers and Fresnel lenses is original... but it's probably not.

Sorry about the rubber bands and foam but remember this is an experiment on my part. Rubber bands are just the best thing for me! Likewise, I recommend you also build a prototype and if (when) it works you should go on to more fancy enclosures. Remember this is just a rough guideline and you can modify it however!

How it works:
This generation method uses a Peltier cell to generate electricity. Peltier cells are designed to be used as heat pumps. When you apply power to a Peltier cell, it begins pumping heat, and one side becomes cold and the other, hot. However, you can do the opposite and generate power from a temperature differential on the sides. To generate this differential, a Fresnel lense focuses light onto one side of the Peltier, and it becomes hot. The other side has a heatsink attached along with a fan that is powered by the Peltier.

Lenses concentrate light, which is absorbed by everything, and when light is absorbed, heat is created. You can easily burn yourself and other things with the lens. Don't leave this out uncovered because the sun moves and it might focus on something. I disclaim all responsibility for anything ever.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

For this project you will need:
a Peltier cell (I got a 50W one for $5 off of eBay, they are still there)
a Fresnel lense (mine's about the size of a sheet of printer paper, there are a whole lot on ebay)
a CPU heatsink (any type of heatsink will work, as long as it's big enough. I got mine at a garage sale for $2.50)
a 5V fan (more info on that later)

Tools/other materials:
Thermal grease
Black paint (I used semi-flat spray paint and it didn't burn)
Soldering stuff
Wire cutters
Reflective material

Note on the peltier: The wattage doesn't affect the power output, but it does affect the internal resistance, which in turn affects the voltage output. Higher wattage = lower voltage, higher amperage. You want a lower wattage peltier so the voltage output is high enough.

My dad built a DIY projector and one of the Fresnel lenses he bought was scratched so he gave it to me.

Warning about the Fresnel! Don't go much bigger than the sheet-magnifier size because you will fry your Peltier. We are probably already running it over it's heat limit, which means it may not last as long.

We have a bunch of foam lying around from building RC foamy airplanes.

The heatsink used to have a fan on it but it was 12v and barely ran off of 5v, so I hunted for 5 volt fans. I was impatient and couldn't find one that I could purchase locally, so I went to Fry's electronics and picked up a laptop cooling pad for $10. There is another one there for $5 that will work fine. It had two fans built in, so I took out the 6 screws, pulled it apart, and pried off the two fan blades/circuit boards. As you can see, they were smart and made the fan axles built into the case instead of standalone fans... so I outsmarted them and dremeled out the axles! You could go my route and use a band/jig saw or dremel, but I highly recommend buying a 5v fan online to save yourself the trouble.
<p>Maybe you can use heat sink for home heating in a winter..</p>
<p>Keep going with this, a very good instructable. You are on the right track.Use a lens not a Fresnel lens and implement all you other ideas. Large panels are not good in high winds and helistats are too complex and fragile.</p>
<p>can you test a satelite dish with a mirror finish to be able to generate power at wider range of light angle? or you could try putting the peltier on a tower and have a circular array of mirrors on the ground. on TV years ago i saw an experiement in nevada desert where they used a large array of mirrors to melt a solid compound into liquid which then generated steam power. Does anyone knows have knowledge of this exeriment?</p>
<p>The mirror array is called Heliostat. There are many versions of it.</p>
<p>perhaps you could group the solar panels around the Peltier, so you get some concentrated light from the Fresnel lens. I love this project though!</p>
<p>Vertical are already marketing photovoltaic panels is up to 20 times more efficient than a conventional solar panel and takes up much less space. A major revolution in the production of solar energy, especially for those who have little space available.</p><p>The first manufacturer to sell this system is called Sun-S&auml;ule.</p><p>More information www.sunsaule.com</p>
<p>Ya est&aacute;n comercializando paneles fotovoltaicos verticales, es hasta 20 veces m&aacute;s eficiente que un panel solar convencional y ocupa mucho menos espacio. Una gran revoluci&oacute;n en la producci&oacute;n de energ&iacute;a solar, principalmente para los que no tienen mucha superficie disponible.</p><p>El primer fabricante en vender este sistema se llama Sun-S&auml;ule.</p><p>M&aacute;s informaci&oacute;n en www.sunsaule.com</p>
<p>Maybe you can use heat sink for home heating in a winter.</p>
I would like to see someone build a 3-stage solar power generator: a photovoltaic cell connected to a peltier/seebeck unit connected to a stirling engine. Actually, the peltier/su could go on either end of the stirling engine. I wonder how much power one could get out of such a setup.
<p>Reviewing you comments of 5 years ago, I know that the back of solar panels gets very hot and that heat diminishes the output of the panel....great idea to use the back of the panels to generate power and thereby cool the panels.</p>
I know I'm replying to myself, but oh well. I had a rethink of my idea, and came up with this setup: take an old satellite dish, line the concave side with small photovoltaic cells (1st power source). The pv cells, being shiny, would reflect some light, and being mounted in a satellite dish, would focus the reflected light onto a seebeck unit (2nd power source) which is mounted on the stirling engine (3rd power source). Would this not work?
<p>go here if u want decent prices.</p><p><a href="http://www.customthermoelectric.com/" rel="nofollow">http://www.customthermoelectric.com/</a></p>
<p>I don't know much at all about optics. Would it be feasible to use a hook up a series of lenses and heat pumps into an array? Would there be any advantage to this? (I'm new to the DIY-energy community.) Along with that, would it be possible to use a more more concave lens, closer to the Peltier cell?</p>
<p><a href="http://www.customthermoelectric.com/" rel="nofollow">http://www.customthermoelectric.com/</a></p><p>go here :)</p>
<p>im getting interested in peltiers as backup, not replacement to solar.i think your math is off tho, you stated $10/watt is on par with solar. i can get solar for .70 to $2.00 a watt (depending on panel manufacturer) anywhere (ex. home depot 105 watt 12v panel for $159.00= approx. $1.60/watt)</p>
Just a thought, if you use a peltier cell and a freshnel lens to generate electricity and you have a bank of them in say a 1m X 2m area, will the set up generate more or less electricity per given area compared to solar PV's?
Depending of the elements you will be using -You can expect more or less 1Kwh per 1m X 2m area of peltier. <br>But the problem is - You willl need a pretty BIG freshnel lens or BIG solar oven and 1m X 2M heat sink too.... that's a huge thingy.<br>
Nice job - I've been thinking of heating a peltier element with my solar oven to generate a little electricity, but haven't tried it yet.
i bought a fresnel lens as a magnifer at Barns and Noble
I&rsquo;ve tried standard peltier modules with limited success and very short service life. They cannot hold up to the higher temperatures necessary for good power generation performance. I found a terrific supplier with both standard temperature and high temperature TEG modules designed specifically for power generation. They sell a lot of devices on eBay and you can also buy from them direct. The company is Thermal Enterprises and here is are links to a couple of their eBay items.<br><br>http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&amp;item=310148993913&amp;ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT<br><br><br>http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&amp;item=310209561834&amp;ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT<br>
They don't even provide the chemistry... whats to prove their better or different from normal TEC modules? And wow, you look a lot like a shill, with all of your comments being promoting these items.
&nbsp;Hey interesting project. First thing I've heard of peltier cells and they look pretty interesting. I'm thinking maybe a bank of peltier cells heatsunk one side and fed with a heated liquid from a solar panel (liquid type not &nbsp;pv).
nice job on ur project, <br /> i got an ideer: &nbsp;if u focus the light on a black container or can filled with water coundt u make a solar powerd sterling engine???<br /> (see sterling on instructables)
I saw something similar in concept to this on Daily Planet, once.&nbsp; A company in the southern states makes big parabolic mirrors that focus light onto a single point, and run high efficiency stirling engines from the heat generated at that point.&nbsp; The stirling engines are then used to generate electricity.
How hot do PV cells get in sunlight ?<br /> <br /> Is there any benefit in putting a peltier on the back of a PV&nbsp;cells to harvest the heat that would otherwise be wasted ?<br /> <br />
Ooooh! Brilliant! So in theory, anything that uses electricity to produce heat can use heat to produce electricity?
No. Theoretically, heating an oven will not produce electricity. Logically, heating an oven will not produce electricity. Period, heating an oven will not produce electricity. Ever.
Oh, well I have a gas stove, not electric, so I wouldn't think that :P
;-) Theoretically, heating a toaster will not produce electricity. Logically, heating a toaster will not produce electricity. Period, heating a toaster will not produce electricity. Ever. I've never seen a gas toaster...
But I don't own a toaster.
Work with me here...
Heating an incandescent lightbulb won't create light?
I'd think that if you heated an entire incandesent lightbulb to somewhere along the range of 2000 to 2500 degrees celcius, it woundn't produce <em>any</em> light. Why? The pressure differentials from the vaccuum in the bulb and the atmospheric pressure might be just enough to break the glass at 2000 degrees. Anything above 2300 and the bulb will melt. If you could somehow heat just the filament, then it would create light. Thus, they run on electricity.<br /><br /><br />
&nbsp;if you put an incandesent&nbsp;lightbulb in a microwave it will light up
I wouldn't think so. I'm too afraid to try it, though; I&nbsp;have an expensive microwave.<br />
&nbsp;no, it really does. It does not, however, make the filament glow, the microwave radiation interacts with the inert Argon gas, making the gas sort of arc to itself, sort of. The effect is that the gas inside the bulb glows in a wide array of colours, but the reaction of the microwaves with the gas also generates quite a lot of heat, which, after about 30 second to a minute, causes the glass to heat up to the point at which it melts and fails, with a bang of sorts...then you are left to explain this very strange looking melted light bulb :)
Actually the cause of the lighting is arcing between various points of metal within the bulb. You can get the same effect with a small piece of crumpled tinfoil (or aluminum foil for you purists) The microwaves create electrical potential differentials that cause arcing from one pointy spot to another all over the place. There is actually a low grade vacuum inside an incandescent light bulb not gas. Argon, Neon and other &quot;Noble&quot; or inert gases are used inside plasma balls to create the colors. Even a fluorescent bulb has a vacuum and any colors seen are the reaction of the fluorescing powder inside the bulb to UV radiation from the arcing.<br />
And this is the brilliance of collective knowledge. I have provided the evidence, you have provided the explanation and those who read these streams of comments and investigate the evidence provided before them will benefit from our melding of minds. I thank you for your information. :)
It's like a mini-Wikipedia. Don't ya love crowd-sourcing?<br />
That's a more sensible explanation. I&nbsp;was trying to figure how microwaves reacting with the filament could heat it up past 1200 degrees. That would have to be one <em>heck</em> of a microwave.<br />
&nbsp;did you watch the video :D
Yes. Not with the sound, though. So if he said something that I missed, <em>well, i missed it.</em><br />
&nbsp;lol...that's ME! woo! I microwaved a light bulb and recorded itjust for you :P<br /><br />in the video I give a brief analogy of the process takingeffect...nothing you can't gain from the post above (Oct 12, 2009. 10:01 PM)<br /><br /><br />
this is the way it is :P the photos show the aftermath.<br /><object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/9HU7AW-aOiE&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1&amp;" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/9HU7AW-aOiE&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1&amp;" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>&nbsp;
I know what I'm doing tonight.<br />
youve never gone camping i take it there you would have seen a gas toaster there a funny round thing with closehanger looking things to hold the bread in place an they sit ontop your gas burners like a pan would&nbsp; but these have holes in them wich arnt very good for cooking the egg at the same time but if you take a small coffee can an trim off the bottum art leaveing a lip you can place that inside the toaster provided theres still room for the heat to get past it to the breadslice .&nbsp; also theres the sqware wire racks you can get at any store were you put bread inside fold it over locking it shut that can be used to cook your steak as well an if your gas runs out its awsum over a fire pit.<br />
This is not a gas toaster... it's a piece of metal that holds 4 or more pieces of bread.<br /><br />And, by the way, that picture is disgusting.<br /><br />I also go camping at least 8 or 9 times a year. <em>Alot</em>. Its funny, because the reason it took me so long to respond was because I just got back from camping.<br />
Poor Padlock.&nbsp; I&nbsp;have a &quot;gas toaster&quot;&nbsp; you can buy them from some camping supplies.&nbsp; They hold toast so one side toasts, usually 4 slices, then you turn it over.&nbsp; Sort of a truncated pyrimid device that sits over a gas stove burner.&nbsp; My Gradfather had one like 80+ years ago he set on a woodstove.&nbsp; Old concept.<br /><br />

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