Project Everest

Work Update

If you plant a lightbulb in your garden, does it grow into a power plant?

Erin Macdonald
Erin Macdonald | Feb 22, 2017 | in Knowledge Base

This February, a team of 6 Trekkers built on the work handed over by the January team, expanding on the ideating stage, as well as progressing to the prototype and testing stages of the Energy Assessment Project in Cambodia. Building on four main problems identified by the previous team, a range of potentially feasible solutions were evaluated, leading to the design of a rough prototype for a thermoelectric generator (TEG), as well as detailed product and market research reports on the viability of the TEG.


After thoroughly researching several possible alternatives, including a gravity generator, small scale solar system, biomass stove and a wood-gas fire stove, it was concluded that the thermoelectric generator was our best option to move forward into the prototyping stage with. Constructing a small TEG with a 5V fan attached, we conducted several tests. In the process we managed to turn on an LED and produce a strong and consistent voltage and current, however, several problems were identified. One major limitation of the TEG is that the product promotes the continued use of current wood sources. The TEG might encourage burning of wood and biomass indiscriminately just to generate electricity and discourage the progression to more advanced cooking techniques.


Another concern is the product’s power generation potential. With an inconsistent heat source powering the design, electrical output may be weak and take time to charge enough power to be useful. Since we are working on a smaller scale, and the demand for electricity within the community is increasing, the system may lag and fail to generate sufficient power when not operating on a large scale.


In order to successfully analyse the TEG as an alternative, we also conducted a series of assessments to justify the viability of the product as a business venture. These included a SWOT Analysis, Product and Market Report and a Business Model Canvas, in order to help us decide on how the product would be transformed into a self sustaining and scalable business.


 With our basic design in place, there is room for further research into improvements regarding the performance phase. A simple yet effective addition to the circuit could be a simple voltage booster circuit. Known as a “joule thief”, it can increase the voltage of a power source by changing the constant low voltage signal into a series of rapid pulses at a higher voltage. This lets you take advantage of low voltage power sources such as thermoelectric generators, small turbines and individual solar cells.


Another potential improvement that could be made is running a simple fan off the power generated by the TEG. While this may seem counterintuitive as it draws power to run, it should actually make the TEG more efficient as it cools the heatsink.


To the teams coming in May who will continue building on the prototypes and testing, make sure you understand the vast amount of research you have been left with and look at it with a fresh and open mind. A finished product won’t come easily, but don’t let that put you off, let it motivate and fuel you for future success.

Just remember, your most valuable resource is each other, so work together and venture on!

edited on 23rd February 2017, 01:02 by Erin Macdonald

Nicholas needs Feb 22, 2017

Hey Erin,

Great summary post about the work of Energy in Feb!

With the TEG, specifically what can future Energy teams focus on to try increase the amount of voltage produced and decrease the amount of time taken to recharge? Also how long does it currently take to charge/recharge?

Prototyping is an awesome stage to be in so really happy to see you guys getting out there and trying things quickly.

Reply 1

Erin Macdonald Feb 22, 2017

Hey Nick,
Good points you raised... I'll look into it tomorrow and write an updated post

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Timothy Hess Feb 23, 2017

Thanks for taking care of this; and updating the blog

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Daniel Ngo Feb 23, 2017

Great job Erin!

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Christina Gell Feb 23, 2017

Thanks for articulating our hard work so well Erin!! What a great team.

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Amber Johnston Jun 20, 2017

Status changed to Previous Work

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