Connect with us

Will this kind of electrical generator work?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Antti Hyvari, Nov 14, 2004.

Scroll to continue with content
  1. Antti Hyvari

    Antti Hyvari Guest

    Here is a copy of the writing that I originally posted "Science
    Hobbyist - General Science Forum" (

    Greetings from Finland to you all :)

    For some time now I've been thinking about building an experimental
    generator that produces electric power. So far I haven't been able to
    find from anywhere writings or thoughts of this kind of device. So
    this might be unique idea or just my imagination running too wild. I
    would hope that you could judge, from this writing that follows which
    case it is.

    Some time ago I was gazing the "How stuff works" website
    ( and read about the Van de Graaff generator
    (afterwards VG) which produces high amount of voltage. I started to
    thinking about how this machine could be used to harness substantial
    amount of electrical energy. The VG produces only a tiny amount of
    current so at first it seemed that it would be useless to be used
    anything but to rise peoples hair or to some other things that aren't
    involved to produce electric power. Then I started to think about how
    to increase this electrical current. I went on searching the web and
    found this great "Science Hobbyist" site ( and from
    there I found answers to many of my questions along with huge amount
    of information about electricity and other stuff.

    One of the most interesting things that I found was this picture
    ( in which "static electricity
    versus current electricity" was neatly illustrated. In the picture
    there were of course these "tabletop" VGs in the right lower portion
    of the picture. As we can see from this picture, the current involved
    with VGs is measured in micro amps. What really caught my eye were
    thermocouples. I already knew that these things exist, but before I
    wasn't familiar at all to their characteristics. This picture shows
    that thermocouple is quite an opposite to VG. It creates a high
    current with only a minimal voltage. Here is address to another site
    that describes functionality of a thermocouple
    Here are two interesting quotes from that site.

    "The voltage produced by thermocouple junctions is strictly dependent
    upon temperature. Any current in a thermocouple circuit is a function
    of circuit resistance in opposition to this voltage (I=E/R). In other
    words, the relationship between temperature and Seebeck voltage is
    fixed, while the relationship between temperature and current is
    variable, depending on the total resistance of the circuit. With heavy
    enough thermocouple conductors, currents upwards of hundreds of amps
    can be generated from a single pair of thermocouple junctions! (I've
    actually seen this in a laboratory experiment, using heavy bars of
    copper and copper/nickel alloy to form the junctions and the circuit

    "Thermocouples, however, can be built from heavy-gauge wire for low
    resistance, and connected in such a way so as to generate very high
    currents for purposes other than temperature measurement. One such
    purpose is electric power generation. By connecting many thermocouples
    in series, alternating hot/cold temperatures with each junction, a
    device called a thermopile can be constructed to produce substantial
    amounts of voltage and current:"

    At first thermocouples or VGs alone aren't type of things which come
    to a mind when thinking about producing electric power. But what if
    the VG and the thermocouple can be somehow combined to produce a high
    current with a high voltage? After thinking it for a while (month!),
    the answer seems to be pretty simple. Just connect two wires made from
    different metals together to make a thermocouple and connect the +
    wire to the positive end (=sphere, if it's built to be positive) of
    the VG and similarly connect the - wire to the negative end of the VG.
    Don't ground the VG but instead connect the grounding wire or the
    negative sphere to this - wire. To complete the electric circuit,
    connect + and - ends from the VG to a electric load (e.g. light bulb).

    Imagine a simple circuit of two conducting wires where thermocouple is
    in the left side. This is the first junction point of the wires. The
    VG is in the middle touching the upper and lower wires of the circuit
    with it's + and - ends (=spheres, if it has two of them). The load is
    in right side and this can be considered as the second junction point
    of the wires.

    There you have it. An electric circuit powered by combined generator
    which produces direct high current, high voltage electric power to the
    load. Key concept of my idea is that in the complete electric circuit,
    which uses these combined energy sources, the VG doesn't short-circuit
    the whole thing. Electromagnetic energy, harnessed from VG and
    thermocouple, and carried along using conductive wires, will go to the
    load and therefore can be used to operate normal electric applications
    (electric motors, to produce hydrogen, light bulbs etc).

    Let's assume for a while that this generator really works. Of course
    the VG and the thermocouple need energy from somewhere to operate.
    This is when things get interesting. The amount of voltage or current
    these devices alone generate is very high. My current understanding is
    that for purpose of generating electric power the size of the VG can
    be very small. The whole operational circuit, powered with VG and
    thermocouple, will be easy/cheap to build and it's capability to
    harness the energy from heat (for the current) and motion (for the
    voltage) is very high.

    Small generator, in which the thermocouple would be heated using e.g.
    a thermal solar energy and VG operated using a e.g. small windmill or
    watermill (=renewable energy sources :) ), could be used to generate
    extra electric power for your home. Another approach could be burning
    biomass to produce heat for the thermocouple and motion (e.g. boiling
    water) to operate the VG. At first I think it would probably easiest
    to just use normal tabletop VG with small motor, a candle flame heated
    thermocouple using thick, conducting metal wires to see quick results.
    Of course for almost any electrical application, the high voltage
    direct current produced must be run through transformers, regulators
    and inverters, which all decrease the efficiency. If the power output
    of this generator is still high enough (now I'm truly speculating :)
    ), one could setup a power plant in which one (or more) very large
    combined generator is operated and use this plant to provide
    electricity to the power grid.

    How much electric power could be produced with this type of generator
    (if it works) is one question to which I can't find answer unless
    actually trying it for real, although playing with the math (volts,
    amps, watts, etc) can give you some impressive numbers. Simple way to
    visualize this is to look again this electric map picture I mentioned
    earlier and draw vertical and horizontal lines from thermocouples and
    VGs to see where the connection point of these lines would be. As you
    can see, the dot (this new generator) is placed relatively high in the
    combined electromagnetic energy scale.

    There are two reasons why I haven't yet tried to see if this works
    myself or encouraged someone else to investigate it. First reason is
    that if I'm correct, the amount of electromagnetic energy harnessed
    can be very, very dangerous. I'm an amateur when considering
    electricity or electric engineering, but curiosity keeps me wondering
    about what kind of things one could do with this type of generator.
    Another reason is that I would like to have (maybe more professional)
    opinions from other people about this idea before proceeding. I want
    to know if I'm totally misunderstood the concepts which I'm talking
    about or if this is something worth of trying.
  2. peterken

    peterken Guest

    Nice dreaming, but....
    Paralelling energy sources having different levels (types) of energy won't
    The voltage of the VG will drop completely for it being shorted by the
    thermocouple, since the internal resistance of the VG is way too high
    The energy of the thermocouple will be unable to drive whatever, since ampel
    potential (voltage) exists

    And if the idea arises to have VG and TC in series...
    the internal resistance of the VG won't allow enough current tot do whatever
  3. Active8

    Active8 Guest

    Let me get this straight. You want to connect the + and - outputs of
    an HV VG to two conductors made of different metals which are
    connected together, right? I know there's a technical term for this,
    I just know it. Help me out here. Give me a clue.

    S _ _ R T
  4. -------------
    Nope. Won't work. This is what happens when people unlearned in the
    physics of electrical power look at issues superficially and
    without the requisite math foundation. You'd have to GET a basic
    degree in physics or electronics to understand WHY it won't work,
    and by that time it would have become obvious to you. First get
    formally educated in the subject before EVER imagining that you
    "see" something nobody else has seen yet.

    -Steve Walz
    Electronics Site!! 1000's of Files and Dirs!! With Schematics Galore!! or

  5. [snip]
    You are totally misunderstanding the concepts. Your generator won't
    work. This one will.
Ask a Question
Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?
You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.
Electronics Point Logo
Continue to site
Quote of the day