SEBS (Seebeck Effect Buoy System)

This Buoy, with peltier modules attached, will use the Seebeck Effect to generate electricity using the ocean and the sun.

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For years we have looked to the land to be the playground for a majority of our power harvesting technology; solar, wind, nuclear. But what about the place that makes up most of our planet, our oceans?
My solution is a buoy with peltier modules on board. What is cool about them is that they are able to use whats called the Seebeck Effect to generate electricity which is how I am using them in my project. The Seebeck Effect is caused from a temperature difference between two surfaces which produces a voltage.
I will be using the Seebeck Effect from the temperature difference between the ocean and the above water level atmosphere on the peltier modules. I will then use the voltage that was produced by them to charge up batteries that will power a Smart Birdhouse.

The way this prototype works starts with a buoy made from Styrofoam which will float on the water's surface. Four Peltier modules line surrounding of the buoy in a way that one surface of the Peltiers are in the water while the other surface faces the sun. The Peltiers are then connected in series. I then have the Peltier components connected to the input end of a joule thief  which outputs a kicked up voltage. The kicked up voltage is then sent to a boost module that I had for an old solar powered cell phone charger from a previous project. I plan to show the future home electricity implementation of this system by making it power with a smart birdhouse project I made with an Adafruit Huzza Feather via a USB connection in a future video. LED's for indoor lighting and fan speed (air conditioning) for the birdhouse will be controlled through the internet, along with setting a notification when the doorbell was pressed.

My future plans for this project is to find a controlled and safe way to wire the system directly to the microcontroller without  a USB  wired connection. I also plan on manufacturing a prototype with better hardware materials (maybe something a little more aesthetic than Styrofoam).       

-link to Github:


Adafruit's Wifi and IO website configuration code.

h - 1.71 kB - 07/07/2018 at 02:59



Code to control smart birdhouse through wifi.

ino - 669.00 bytes - 07/07/2018 at 02:58


  • 4 × TEC1 - 12706 Peltier Plate Module
  • 1 × 2MH Turiod core common mode Inductor Inductor
  • 1 × 1K Ohm Resistor Resistor
  • 1 × P2N222A Transistor
  • 2 × 1N4001 Discrete Semiconductors / Diodes and Rectifiers

View all 10 components

  • Structure Materials

    Kedric07/15/2018 at 02:56 0 comments

    I just found out a few days ago that there is a MakerSpace offered by Ting Mobile near my house that offers the use of CAD software computers and 3D printers to the public. I am planning on making a new prototype for the buoy made of ABS plastic. the good thing about ABS is that it is water resistant, strong, and non-toxic. The bad thing about it is that it really is not recommended for extended outdoor use which worries me but i'm thinking there is probably some protective substance that could be applied onto the finished product to help give it more shelf life outdoors. I'm also looking into the price estimate to use the MakerSpace and 3D materials usage which I am thinking right now to be possibly around a good $30.

  • Water Proofing

    Kedric07/15/2018 at 02:28 0 comments

    To prevent water from accidentally being splashed onto the circuitry at the top I hot glued a clear cylinder covering from an old tape container to the top of the buoy. For the side of the covering that is facing the USB opening of the Boost Converter I cut a snug fit hole and in the process of trying to find some material to fill in the sounding to keep water from leaking in.   

  • Heat Transfer and Power generation

    Kedric07/15/2018 at 02:23 3 comments

    Thanks to comments from Josh Starnes, I learned that there is a better component that could replace the peltier modules which would help generate more electricity. I am going to try to obtain TEG thermo electric generators to apply in a future prototype. I am also going to paint the top heatsink aluminum plates black to help absorb more heat.

  • Heat Sink Update

    Kedric07/15/2018 at 02:15 0 comments

    To make the temperature between the foil plates and the peltier modules transfer more efficiently I added a thin layer of Arctic silver thermal paste in between. 

View all 4 project logs

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/24/2018 at 15:53 point

Another tip, Paint the solar collector flat black and I recommend making  the solar collector bigger to grab more light. You could probably just add on to what you have.

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/24/2018 at 15:51 point

Well that voltage is just fine, it is what amperes it can support. You want at least 200ma  or 1/5 of an amp to power anything like a micro controller or battery charger, ideally over 500 mah. You can use a boost dc converter to raise it to a operating voltage like 3.3 for arduino, or 5 volts for lots of other things. I would like to see you get a video up of it working before they judge on the hackaday contest.

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/24/2018 at 14:08 point

Have you tested this yet? have you gotten it to work?

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Kedric wrote 07/24/2018 at 15:31 point

I was able to test it twice last week but have not been able to lately because of the rain and my work schedule. So far with power generation it works but the highest voltage I was able to record from it was around 2.7 volts with the current modules I have not the ones you mentioned earlier. I'm still waiting for the thermo electric generators to come in and see how I fair with those.

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/10/2018 at 21:49 point

Oh I forgot, The modules you used are opposite of what you wanted, TEC is a Thermoelectric cooler, they are made to take in power and move heat, but not move heat to produce power. If you swap them for TEG thermo electric generators you will have better luck.

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Kedric wrote 07/15/2018 at 02:18 point

Thank you for the helpful tips!!!

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/10/2018 at 21:47 point

high I have a similar project, I would suggest a couple things. First , painting things black will make it absorb more heat.  Generally you want a cold side heatsink 2-3 times the size of the collector so that you " move " the heat through the TEG module.   Very Cool. I would love to see it work. :)

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Mike Szczys wrote 07/05/2018 at 16:52 point

Neat concept. I wonder if you can use some sort of passive convection system (like heat pipes in computer processor heat syncs) to get the cold from below further up onto the buoy? I'm thinking about cold water splashing on the the top fins which would reduce efficiency... placing them further from the water surface would help prevent that.

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Kedric wrote 07/07/2018 at 03:42 point

Yes, I took that into consideration and chose to get some aluminum plates from lowes. I cut them into strips then bent them into sharp open "U" formations. I then put one on each side of the peltiers along with some thermal paste and reinforced the pressure between the plates and the module surface using tape. For the splash factor problem, I was thinking maybe making a protective crown looking barrier that fit around the edges of the peltier module and around the upper heat sink.   

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