Examining Heat Recovery from Electric Light Bulbs Using Thermoelectric Generators

(1) Stoller Middle School, Portland, Oregon

In 2015, the US consumed about 400 billion kilowatt- hours (kWh) of electricity for lighting. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one third of the US energy consumption is wasted as heat. Light (solar) and vibration (piezoelectric) are common energy harvesting sources. Thermoelectric generators (TEGs), based on the Seebeck effect, have the capability to generate electricity from temperature differences. This study evaluates the feasibility of using TEGs by utilizing the thermal gradient of a household light bulb with ambient air as a viable source of energy. Initial results using TEGs with a Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulb shows up to 0.9 mW of harvestable energy. The experiments show that a better heat-sink enhanced setup can maximize the thermal gradient across both sides of the TEG, resulting in a ninefold increase in the energy efficiency to 8.3 mW. Finally, a 3D-printed TEG model, custom designed to fit conventional electric bulbs, demonstrates the promise of the proposed solution. Every bit of energy-recycling matters. The impact of using TEG-enabled light bulbs throughout millions of households will greatly benefit the lives of many by encouraging energy recycling and reducing the amount of fossil fuels being consumed.

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