Curiosity Rover uses RTG.

My friend Steve Aplin mentioned that there were some interesting ways of powering remote vehicles.

It’s called an Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). In a nutshell you take a radioactive heat source and then get electricity from the heat using a thermo-couple.

This system is great for long haul because plutonium 238 (pu-238) has a half life of 88 years. It glows red hot for most of this  time. So it’s been used for NASA missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and more. Solar gets weak as we move away from the sun so it becomes very attractive for this application.

This clearly isn’t a DIY project but I was thinking that the thermo-couple engineering could be re-used with another heat source. Like an olive oil lamp.

My friend Emily Daniels is working on making electricity from household materials and I wonder if a thermo-couple that can convert a large amount of power can easily be made. Apparently it’s not very efficient (application).

When people talk about getting energy from heat the Stirling Engine usually comes up. But that’s a lot of parts (not to mention the generator).

With this system (minus the radioisotopes) it could be possible to get electricity from a candle (the last I checked my lab I was low on them, hahaha).