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Converting heat energy to electrical energy

  1. Jun 2, 2013 #1
    I'm going to ask a very basic question and my attempt at solving it may not even be right.

    Electricity is basically flow of electrons in a conductor, so what I was wondering is if I start heating the wire the atoms will start losing the electrons and everything will be moving in a chaotic way but to get a flow of current I need to provide a potential difference but my whole point is that I want to eliminate the need for a battery so is there any way to provide a potential difference without a battery.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    You can certainly use a generator instead of a battery, or a capacitor.
  4. Jun 2, 2013 #3


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    There is a concurrent thread about thermoelectricity and the Seebeck Effect.
  5. Jun 2, 2013 #4
    I was once soldering with tin some wires to a LED. Don't know how it happened but on the hand with which I was touching the tin I got a small shock. Which means I completed a circuit. Ouch. However I don't know if the current flow was caused because of the heat moving the electrons or because somehow the resistor which was heating the soldering iron touched the iron which was touching the tin. For all that it matters it could have even been that the resistor charged by induction the iron after being so much time turned on. Who knows.

    I want to believe it was the heat. Anyway it's just a comment, I don't know how to accomplish what you want. :smile:
  6. Jun 3, 2013 #5


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    The conduction electrons are not associated with any particular atoms in a metal. They are 'dissociated' and heating up doesn't increase their number - just their mean Kinetic Energy. This is evident from the fact that resistance of a metal doesn't go down as you increase the temperature - unlike Carbon, where raising the temperature does decrease the resistivity due to the increase in availability of conduction electrons.
    BTW, 'electricity' is not a quantity. It is just a term to describe all matters 'electrical'. It is more accurate to say that Electric Current is a flow of Charge (and that may not be electrons; it could just as easily be positive ions).
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