Author Topic: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?  (Read 3425 times)

Offline Adam B.

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Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« on: March 12, 2013, 03:21:37 PM »
http://www.biolitestove.com/

I had this discussion with my friends last weekend while backpacking in the snow for a weekend.

We were talking about the Biolite stoves at REI we saw and how cool the technology is but they are QUITE heavy (and expensive)...

Since what I could see in there it seems like they are using a thermocouple to turn the heat energy into electricity powerful enough to charge small devices.

My question is this — has anyone out there made a "BACKPACKER'S CHARGER" which would just be a "probe" (thermocouple) that you can stick into the hot coals of a campfire, with a USB port on the opposite end (steel braided or heat-protected cable of course) so that backpackers can charge their devices without having to carry around a heavy camping stove?

That would be SO AWESOME — and another problem that people say they have with the biolite stove is that you have to keep constantly stoking the fire to keep the charging continuous — whereas if you stuck a probe into a pile of hot coals, you would not have that problem (until the coals cool off of course).

I think the only issue would be making the device strong enough to withstand the high heat of the inside of a campfire.

Offline Erigorn

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Re: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2013, 08:17:52 PM »
That sounds like a great idea. Even if it was a plate the size of a cell phone/deck of card/etc (i assume larger surface area would allow greater watts.) That would still be pretty small compared to the whole stove. Less expensive too.

I heard about these stoves and thought it was a great idea. But i'm with you. Having to keep a little stove constantly stoked could be a pain but i'll often sit around a small campfire for hours.

I don't know much about the tech but I'd be happy to bounce ideas back and forth.

They also have a home cooker which looks just like a fancy rocket stove (not for backpacking but 3rd world country type). I think something you could attach to a rocket stove or take camping for open fire would be cool.

Offline Erigorn

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Re: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2013, 09:14:19 PM »
I just did a bit of research.
The tech is what is called a thermoelectric generator. See wiki site
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoelectric_generator

This pdf gave me some other practical info.
http://www.termo-gen.com/pdf/TEG_modules_Bi2Te3.pdf

In quick summary the plates generate electricity when put under a temperature differential. i.e. it has to be hot on one side and relatively cool on the other. The pdf stated its values under a situation of 230 C on one side and 50 C on the other. (446 and 122). So it would be pretty hard to just stick the plate in the fire and get power out. The plate is made of a ceramic so should insulate itself (along with converting to electricity). You would really need to keep one side open and then insulate the heck out of the other side to keep it cool. They must be using the included fan to keep one side cool as well as stoking the fire. Ingenious really.

Offline bcksknr

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Re: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 11:10:14 AM »
     A long while back, I read an article on a thermoelectric device that was homemade and ran off of a kerosene lamp. I seem to remember something about it being used by Russian peasants to power a radio receiver. essentially it was a ring of dissimilar wire strands connected in alternating fashion, end to end. When placed on the lamp with the inner ends in the flame and the outer ends in the air it would deliver current to the last two, untouching wires, one positive and one negative. I don't remember what the wires were made of, but they had to be two dissimilar types. I'd like to know if anyone else has heard of this.

Offline archer

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Offline idelphic

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Re: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2013, 01:31:37 PM »
Saw this last night:
http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/turn-your-bbq-cellphone-charger-gadget.html
Interesting little doohikie Archer...  however it uses some kind of 'fuel card' rather then two dissimilar metals...  wonder what they are made of, and how long they last....

Offline bcksknr

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Re: Biolite stoves gave me an idea (or does this already exist)?
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2013, 10:40:16 AM »
   I Googled the kerosene lamp driven thermoelectric device and there it was! rather large and weighing 20lbs. Obviously from the old days, however the illustrations showed it surrounding a suspended kerosene lamp and a power cord going to what seemed to be an old tube radio receiver. Apparently developed for rural Russian and Chinese. It had large cooling fins to provide the temperature differential between the hot and the cool side of the thermocouples.
    So then yesterday there was a radio feature about a 15 year old girl who was selected as a finalist in a national science fair. She had devised a flashlight (LED) that ran on just the heat from a human hand. The thermocouple was called a Peltier device and when I Googled it, they are easy to come by. If its heated on one side (from any source) and allowed to cool on the other, it creates electricity. No moving parts. If you put electricity into the device, you get heat from one side and cold from the other. I think they are used in solid state coolers for refrigeration. It seems to be a simple generating device just waiting for some innovation to power off the grid systems.
   When I was a kid we built a Hilsch Vortex tube from a Popular Mechanics article. When compressed air was put into a spiral chamber, Hot air would exit from one end of a tube and cold air would exit from the other end of the same tube. I think if you put the two devices together you could get electric current from compressed air with no moving parts. Instead of buying gasoline we could all line up at the free air pump!