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Science AIST team generates electricity from springwater


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
A global first was achieved by a team, including members from Japan's AIST, who created a method to generate electricity from spring water. This innovative system leverages the temperature disparity between the spring water and the surrounding air to produce energy using a thermal generator. This approach is distinct from hydroelectric systems as it does not rely on water flow. It can function continuously, day and night, and can be integrated into devices like sensors, making them independent of external power supplies. Spring water's stable temperature, which remains around 15 degrees Celsius regardless of the time, is critical to this technology. This characteristic allows the spring water to feel cool in the heat of summer and warm during the cold of winter.

AIST springwater electricity generation

Photo credit: AIST

The team created a device that converts absorbed thermal energy into electricity by attaching heat sinks, which take in and release heat, to both ends of a copper cylinder. When one end is placed in the spring water and the other in the air, electrical power is generated due to the temperature difference. Researchers conducted experiments between 2022 and 2023 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which has abundant spring water and whose day and night temperatures vary significantly, with the mercury dipping below freezing in winter. They confirmed that electricity was generated, and they could power devices such as temperature recorders. The generated power peaked in January, when the temperature difference was greatest, at an average of 14.5 milliwatts. A regular household uses 6-15 kilowatt-hours a day, and the amount generated from the spring water is minuscule in comparison. Research team member Yasutaka Amagai of AIST's Research Institute for Physical Measurement commented, "It's able to store about one button battery's worth of electricity so that it can be used in water quality management equipment and other such devices. We want to explore how to utilize this technology."

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