Cheap Thermoelectric Generator

Building a Thermoelectric generator as cheaply as possible, capable of charging a mobile phone, using the Seebeck Effect.

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How to build a Thermoelectric generator cheaply for survival camps. Designed to be very efficient. (They are also known as Seebeck Generators).
The TEG I am building will be able to power/charge a 5V (at 600mA) device through a standard USB "Type A" port.

Why and how it works:

Thermoelectric generators (TEG) work in an extremely clever way. TEGs work using peltier devices which are essentially two ceramic plates with semiconductors in-between. These are normally used in fridges and kettles for camping; when a current is placed across the peltier, it can cause it to rapidly heat to boiling in just a few minutes, or simply by reversing the polarity it can quickly drop below freezing point.

By reverse engineering these small devices; rather than placing the current through them we give the device a temperature difference on each ceramic plate it will produce D.C. voltage (Emf-Electromotive force [battery voltage]). The higher the temperature difference the higher the voltage generated.

This works because rather than giving the peltiers electrical energy to create heat (or negative heat), we are providing the heat to get electricity from the device. (Diagram is in the project gallery).

The Seebeck Effect

It is known as the Seebeck effect (temperature difference to electricity), the opposite of the Peltier effect (electricity to heat/temperature difference).

The Circuit Schematic: 3V, 1A to 5V, 600mA.

Adafruit - MintyBoost V2 Schematic

This Schematic is a possible way to convert the output from the generator/s to the required Current and Voltage. The 3V battery can be replaced with the TEG. (Image: Adafruit - MintyBoost V2). For ease, the MintyBoost V3 can be used instead and can be bought as a kit through, the battery connectors can then be attached the the correct leads on the TEG.

Custom Version of the Adafruit MintyBoost V2

The Module Design.

Design of 1 of the Modules

1 Module in completed form

The design of each of the modules of the circuit. (I have changed the design slightly, as to what is seen above, so that it has holes on one side of the bottom can, see below). Each can of the module were attached securely using duct tape (sellotape in the prototype - above, right).

The entire TEG (4 modules)

This device was a proof of concept, and performed brilliantly and fully worked, with only four modules and four tea light candles, it was able to charge a mobile phone to full charge. (I recommend not testing this on your own phone as it may break it if the wiring was not correct or a component was damaged).

At some point in the future I will try to make a more efficient version of this. Feel free to use this design or modify it as you wish.

TEG Powering LEDs

This is an image of the TEG powering some LED lights.


Data Sheet for the TEC1-12706 I used in this project.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 534.02 kB - 01/12/2016 at 09:48



LT1302 - Micropower High Output Current Step-Up Adjustable and Fixed 5V DC/DC Converter (Linear Technology).

Adobe Portable Document Format - 317.88 kB - 01/12/2016 at 09:46



Voltage Regulator Data Sheet for the 78xx series, use if you want to have the current at 1A rather than 600mA.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 1.76 MB - 01/12/2016 at 09:55


  • 8 × Aluminium Cans (diameter >5cm) 2 per module
  • 4 × Peltiers TEC1-12706 To generate the electricity
  • 1 × Thermal Paste 16g Used to attach the peltiers to the cans
  • 1 × Duct Tape or Aluminium Tape To hold the cans together
  • 1 × Candles or other form of heat (per module) To provide the required energy (spares may be needed)

View all 18 components

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Enjoy this project?



Dr. Cockroach wrote 02/08/2017 at 17:33 point

That would be a neat power source for my computer project :-)

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blue88comanche wrote 10/05/2016 at 21:13 point

Very Cool project! 

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