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Build Your Own Emergency Thermoelectric Charger

With our dependence on gadgets these days, going out to the woods and off of the grid for a bit requires some forethought if we want to still have power for them.

There are plenty of ways to do so, from carrying extra battery packs or a small solar panel with you, but if you’re looking for something that will charge your devices on the fly, even after dark, then this project could be the answer.

If you’re a tinkerer and a DIY kind of person, you may enjoy building your own thermoelectric charger capable of topping off the battery of your phone, using heat from a stove or fire.

Instructables user Joohansson used a thermoelectic module (also called a peltier element, TEC or TEG) that can produce electricity from the temperature difference between its two sides, a heat sink, and a small fan to build a device capable of generating enough energy to charge an iPhone 4S (and other USB-charged devices).


Joohansson has a full tutorial for building a prototype of this little gadget, which weighs in at 409 grams and measures 90mm on a side, with the costs running about 80 Euros (the most expensive part being the TEG-module, at 45 Euros).

According to Joohansson, the specs on the unit (using a gas camping stove as the heat source) are:

Input power (TEG output): 3.2W
Output power (excluding cooling fan, 0.7W): 4.5V@400mA => 1.8W
Efficiency: 2.5/3.2 = 78%
Temp (approx): 270ºC hot side and 120ºC cold side (150ºC difference)

It’s not the lightest or the smallest portable charger out there, but it certainly gets credit for being one of the coolest DIY projects for mobile power.

[Images: Joohansson]

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