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How to Build Your Own Thermoelectric Generator

This entry was posted in thermoelectric technology and thermoelectric generator on August 02, 2018 by II-VI Marlow Industries

In 1821, German physicist Thomas Seebeck found that two dissimilar metals exposed to varying temperatures will generate an electrical current. This phenomenon has since been referred to as the Seebeck Effect and is the basis for thermoelectric generators.

The following exercise details step-by-step instructions on how to construct a thermoelectric generator from household items.


  • Steel paperclip
  • Bare copper wire
  • Cup of ice and salt
  • Hot plate
  • Voltmeter


  1. Cut the paperclip in half
  2. Connect a paperclip half to each end of the copper wire
  3. Place one end of the device on the hot plate where the copper and steel are connected
  4. Place the opposite end of the device in the cup of ice and salt where the copper and steel are connected
  5. Connect the ends of the paperclip to the voltmeter
  6. Measure voltage generated

This homemade device will likely not produce a significant amount of energy, but it demonstrates the fundamental properties that allow thermoelectric generators to operate. Other metal combinations and more substantial temperature differences can optimize large-scale generators for real-world application.

How It Works

The Seebeck Effect produces an electric current when dissimilar metals are exposed to a variance in temperature. Seebeck effect applications are the foundation of thermoelectric generators (TEGs) or Seebeck generators which convert heat into energy. The voltage produced by TEGs or Seebeck generators is proportional to the temperature distance across between the two metal junctions.


Thermoelectric generators do not have any moving parts, operate 24/7 irrespective of bad weather, and do not require battery backup. This makes them an extremely reliable energy source. While a generator created from household items is not an efficient energy source, II-VI Marlow has developed thermoelectric generator modules for commercial and industrial use. These modules offer a highly reliable renewable energy source that uses the Seebeck effect to output DC electrical power from a temperature differential.

Be sure to also browse our complete product line of power generators and read more about how thermoelectric generators work.

Are you interested in discovering more about thermoelectric technologies? Contact us via the link below.

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