Can a flashlight be battery free?

Ann Makosinski, Canada, 2013 award winner

Photo of Ann in Canada.

Ann’s fascination with the way things work began at an early age. Since she can remember, she’s been naturally drawn to the small complexities found in everyday things, from insects to transistors. To Ann, science meant anything was possible, which sparked her passion for wanting to use science to create change for the better.

I think the biggest mistake people make about kids who went to science fairs, is that we’re top of the class, straight A students.
Ann looking at a family photo.

When her mother attended school in the Philippines, she had no electricity at home to study at night, which caused her grades to suffer. When Ann found this affected millions of people around the world, she was determined to find an affordable solution.

The solution was right in the palm of her hand. She discovered that humans are a great source of untapped energy, calculating that a human body radiates 5.7 mW/cm2, but only 0.5 mW is needed to generate light.

We are like walking 100 Watt light bulbs.

The test

She went to work cutting and manipulating materials to make a hollow flashlight, while outfitting the inside of the handle with Peltier tiles, small thermopower conductors. If one side of the tile is heated and the other cooled, electricity is produced. She tested various sized tiles and even created two flashlights to comparatively measure the LED power.

She tested the heat off her hand and found that the palm alone radiates more than enough milo-watts per centimeter sq heat to create a bright LED light.

There’s still 1.4 billion people in the world without electricity.

The outcome

Ann’s flashlight successfully captured the heat of her hand and produced a steady beam of light for over 20 minutes. With her idea now a reality, Ann hopes her flashlight can be part of the solution to give people all over the world a little more light. She’s even started her own company, Makotronics Enterprises, to continue pushing her ideas.