27 Mar 2012

A high school student team which has developed an Aquatic Thermoelectric Generator to produce energy from heat.  (Credit:  NCIIA)

A group of San Jose, California high school students has come up with a way to utilize swimming pools as a source of electricity to power schools, homes and businesses.

Their solution relies on thermoelectric panels that can harness the temperature difference between a hot surface and the cold water.  This could be expanded into huge floating farms of these devices, possibly powering entire coastal towns.  

"As this device floats on water, reflector panels focus sunlight onto a black surface that converts the solar energy to heat," according to Anthony Silk, a math teacher and adviser to the Harker School team in California.  Silk goes on to state "This heat is then passed through thermoelectric panels and passively dissipated into the surrounding water." 

The members of the Harker School InvenTeam, saw thermoelectric devices as a way to tap into the heat energy that usually gets wasted, realizing water could act as the ideal cooling source to offset sun-warmed material.  This creates the temperature difference for thermoelectric panels. 

Recently the students represented one of 14 student teams at the Open Minds exhibition held by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco on March 23.  They received the invitation from the NCIIA and Lemelson-MIT program.

The team is looking forward to getting feedback on their device and getting sponsorships from venture capitalists, as well as inspiration from other inventors on how to improve the technology.

They plan on doing future tests involving changing the angles of the sunlight reflectors to boost power generation.  The team also will try out a transparent Lexan plastic pyramid to see if prevents enough heat loss to offset the limits of sunlight that reaches the heat-absorbing surface.

The California based team hopes to have a finished product ready for the EurekaFest at MIT in June.

Source:  innovationnewsdaily.com

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