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Really Cool Invention Brings Teens Awards (Amazing Kids-Invented What GM Couldn't)
The Salt Lake Tribune ^ | 07/06/2005 | Jessica Ravitz

Posted on 07/06/2005 8:33:43 AM PDT by skyman

Really cool invention brings teens awards Physics students: They came up with an environmentally friendly, economical air conditioner By Jessica Ravitz The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake Tribune

BLUFFDALE - The code name, Space Beast, was one they came up with in the wee hours of the night.

Tyler Lyon, Daniel Winegar and Chad Thornley were overtired and giddy as they tackled a science fair project. Their idea: Eliminate the use of Freon in automobile air-conditioning systems by relying on the Peltier effect - of course.

"We aren't planning our lives around making air conditioners," Lyon explained. "We wanted to do something to help the environment and the economy."

But what began as a Riverton High School physics class assignment nearly two years ago has morphed into an award-winning, internationally recognized invention.

Lyon and Winegar, two recent Riverton graduates - Thornley graduated in 2004 and is now on an LDS Church mission - won the first-ever Ricoh Sustainable Development Award in May when they competed against 1,400 other worldwide invitation-only entries at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix.

Aside from the $50,000 college scholarship the two 18-year-olds will share, the budding engineers are jetting off to Japan today for a 10-day visit on Ricoh's dime. The office equipment and electronics company, a leader in the field of sustainable development, has invited the Utahns to attend the World Expo, address Ricoh executives, tour their research and development lab, meet with government officials - including the Minister of the Environment - and sit down with Tokyo University professors.

"It's been a total, unbelievable dream," marveled Tyler's mom, Diane Lyon, last week. "They're just typical boys. But when someone believes in you, amazing things can happen."

Physics teacher Kari Lewis, who recently left Riverton High, said trusting in Lyon and Winegar was easy.

"They came up with this idea . . . and they made it work," she said. "It's a perfect solution to an incredible problem."

Today, the young inventors say, U.S. drivers use about 7.9 billion gallons of fuel each year to run their air-conditioners, which draw power from the engine. By adopting their contraption - which taps into the electrical system, using fans to blow hot air through five Peltier chips and then releasing cold air - they say the country stands to save 3.9 billion gallons of fuel annually, or about $10 billion based on current gas prices.

Furthermore, the product would free drivers from Freon - which despite improvements, remains an ozone-depleting chemical in current air-conditioners. The Peltier chips, which they purchased on eBay for $9.99 each, have a life span of 20 to 30 years and an unfaltering cooling capacity. And like every component in the Space Beast, which can be minimized in size to about 2 inches in width, the chips are recyclable.

As a young boy, Lyon's parents said he tore apart and reassembled household electronics - CD players, clocks, an old stereo that didn't work until he fixed it. And while Daniel's mom, LouAnn Winegar, was grateful her son was "not a take-apart-person," she said her boy's love for science, engineering and computers has been consistent.

"It's nice to see all of his years of interest and hard work being recognized," she said.

The two-year process of fine-tuning, however, was not without its glitches. When the teens were trying to convert a blow-dryer fan from AC to DC power, a miswiring gave Lyon a doozy of a shock - "a low-enough amp that it couldn't really stop my heart," he said. And there was that computer power strip that they managed to ignite, before throwing it outside in the snow, only to retrieve it two days later to recycle its parts.

Despite the setbacks, and bouts of procrastination, the teens didn't give up. When they weren't playing computer games, skiing, snowboarding or, in Lyon's case, rock-climbing, they buckled down, sometimes working through the night. Their focus nearly cost them graduation - they had to scramble to make up work in other classes - but they accomplished what others couldn't.

After they had already begun their work, Lyon and Winegar learned about a 1964 General Motors analysis that explored the idea before the car company concluded it wasn't possible.

Going in with open minds, however, the teens were not deterred and pulled off what GM rejected. "Nobody told them it couldn't be done," Robert Lyon, Tyler's dad, said.

The first time he felt a cold gust of air successfully come through the system, Winegar said he remembers saying: "We may actually have something here."

Looks like they do. A Salt Lake City attorney is working to secure a patent. The Environmental Protection Agency called to express interest Tuesday morning. And though repeated attempts to communicate with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. have gone unanswered, high officials in Japan - an ocean away - are awaiting the arrival of Riverton's young inventors.


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1 posted on 07/06/2005 8:33:44 AM PDT by skyman
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To: skyman

Cool...


2 posted on 07/06/2005 8:36:10 AM PDT by devane617
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To: skyman

The new Steve Jobs.


3 posted on 07/06/2005 8:36:59 AM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Democrats haven't had a new idea since Karl Marx.)
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To: skyman
"By adopting their contraption - which taps into the electrical system, using fans to blow hot air through five Peltier chips and then releasing cold air - they say the country stands to save 3.9 billion gallons of fuel annually, or about $10 billion based on current gas prices."

Doesn't necessarily follow. The energy to charge the batteries has to come from somewhere.

Still, it's a 'cool' idea...

4 posted on 07/06/2005 8:39:22 AM PDT by null and void (No man's life, liberty, or property are safe as long as court is in session)
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To: devane617

excellent


5 posted on 07/06/2005 8:39:50 AM PDT by patton ("Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write.")
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To: skyman
The code name, Space Beast, was one they came up with in the wee hours of the night.

I would like a job coming up with code names and naming war ships.

6 posted on 07/06/2005 8:41:48 AM PDT by Phantom Lord (Fall on to your knees for the Phantom Lord)
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To: skyman

Peltier chips have been around for a long time. They aren't used because they are horribly inefficient when compared with a traditional heat pump, so I don't know where these guys are getting their saving gasoline figure from. The engine either has to crank the compressor to run the traditional air conditioner, or crank like crazy on the alternator to run the peltier chips.

I would bet that when you run the actual numbers, you'll find that using peltier chips actually reduces your gas mileage as the load on the alternator increases.


7 posted on 07/06/2005 8:45:09 AM PDT by frgoff
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To: skyman

If they have indeed found a more efficient way to generate cool air, they will be very rich.


8 posted on 07/06/2005 8:45:35 AM PDT by Poser (Joining Belly Girl in the Pajamahadeen)
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To: null and void

Of the 7.9 billion gallons they say is used to run AC they estimate they can save 3.9 billion. Guess that 4 billion would go to charge the batteries. ;^)


9 posted on 07/06/2005 8:45:52 AM PDT by Arkie2 (No, I never voted for Bill Clinton. I don't plan on voting Republican again!)
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To: skyman
Invented What GM Couldn't...

a contract that won't bankrupt the company?

10 posted on 07/06/2005 8:45:54 AM PDT by Rakkasan1 (every day is a gift, that's why they call it the present.)
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To: null and void

No, it just takes half the amount of power to run. It says the gas consumption annually would go from 7.9 billion gallons to 3.9 billion gallons.


11 posted on 07/06/2005 8:46:41 AM PDT by Rad_J
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To: skyman

Well, that sounds nifty, but does it dehumudify like a typical AC unit? How many Peltier chips would it take to cool down an entire house?


12 posted on 07/06/2005 8:47:05 AM PDT by jess35
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To: skyman
"... the budding engineers are jetting off to Japan today for a 10-day visit on Ricoh's dime."

Second prize is 20 days in Japan...

13 posted on 07/06/2005 8:47:45 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: Rakkasan1

An efficient employee??


14 posted on 07/06/2005 8:47:46 AM PDT by Tennessee_Bob ("Nac Mac Feegle! The Wee Free Men! Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! We willna be fooled again!")
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To: null and void

AC Compressors suck down way more power than these Peltiers, you definately should cut down the power requirements by at least 50% to run A/C using these vs gas based..... Will be interesting to see where this goes.


15 posted on 07/06/2005 8:47:54 AM PDT by HamiltonJay
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To: null and void
Today...U.S. drivers use about 7.9 billion gallons of fuel each year to run their air-conditioners...

...they say the country stands to save 3.9 billion gallons of fuel annually,...

They acknowledge there will still be fuel consumption, reducing it 50%, though.

16 posted on 07/06/2005 8:49:32 AM PDT by Fierce Allegiance (This ain't your granddaddy's America!)
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To: skyman
"Today, the young inventors say, U.S. drivers use about 7.9 billion gallons of fuel each year to run their air-conditioners, which draw power from the engine."

And where does this nitwit think the electricity for the Peltier chips comes from?
That's right: the engine.

17 posted on 07/06/2005 8:50:20 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: frgoff

Yeah, I want to see the numbers run by somebody who knows what they are doing. Still ain't no free lunch, and the laws of thermodynamics have not been repealed.

What I have always wondered about would be using waste heat from the exhaust to run an absorption unit. Same as an RV refrigerator that runs on propane. Exhaust heat is truly waste and stealing some of it to run an AC unit should have no effect on fuel consumption.


18 posted on 07/06/2005 8:54:18 AM PDT by tickmeister (tickmeister)
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To: skyman
This award is just a feel good save the earth pipe dream. Peltier devices are far less efficient than any modern automotive air conditioner. The energy consumed per BTU of heat displacement is the key. The 4 billion gallons of savings figure was pulled from thin air.
At least these kids should get an award for their insight into the judges mindset that an invention doesn't need to actually work as long as we can pretend it's saving the earth. Aaaaaargh!
19 posted on 07/06/2005 8:54:40 AM PDT by nonessential-personel
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To: null and void

These things draw 35watts per peltier chip, * 5 gives 185 watts (at least). At 12 volts this is 15 amps, maybe doable, but a good load on the alternator.


20 posted on 07/06/2005 8:54:48 AM PDT by FastCoyote
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To: frgoff
They aren't used because they are horribly inefficient when compared with a traditional heat pump, so I don't know where these guys are getting their saving gasoline figure from.

They throw off a boatload of heat, too - your cooling system will need a cooling system.

21 posted on 07/06/2005 8:58:10 AM PDT by general_re ("Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith, but in doubt." - Reinhold Niebuhr)
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To: frgoff

There is also a savings in weight and complexity that may off-set the excess alternator drive. No compressor, No evaporator, No Condenser, No plumbing, No Freon, No extra belts and Pulleys. All this combined, an Extra-High output alternator in the same space looks really good to a high volume manufacturer. I have a cooler that uses a Peltier device and it works well. I don't expect an car AC to freeze you out of the cab with them, but it can possibly be improved over time........


22 posted on 07/06/2005 9:00:09 AM PDT by Red Badger (The Army makes the world safe for democracy. The Marines make the world safe for the Army.....)
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To: skyman

What are the odds that somone in the know might tell the rest of us (me) what a Peltier Chip actually is?


23 posted on 07/06/2005 9:00:39 AM PDT by norton (build a wall and post the rules at the gate)
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To: Fierce Allegiance

They're also left with the problem of efficiently disposing of the heat from the hotside junction of the Peltier cell.

Why do they think GM rejected this concept? Because the GM engineers are stupid?
Because they hadn't spent long enough in high-school physics class?

Here's the 4-word theory of economics, and it also applies to engineering:
"Ain't no free lunch."


24 posted on 07/06/2005 9:01:10 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: FastCoyote
OK, add the fan and support electronics and we're at about 1/4 horsepower. Not bad. Not bad at all. I'd love to replace the anemic Freon 12 A/C on my 20 year old Volvo...
25 posted on 07/06/2005 9:01:14 AM PDT by null and void (You'll learn more on FR by accident, than other places by design)
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To: frgoff
Powder..Patch..Ball FIRE!

I would bet that when you run the actual numbers, you'll find that using peltier chips actually reduces your gas mileage as the load on the alternator increases.

I'll take that bet for any amount you want to part with.
Alternator loading on vehicles is much less than AC compressor loading (and alternator loading on newer cars supplemental electric cooling)

26 posted on 07/06/2005 9:01:48 AM PDT by BallandPowder
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To: skyman

That is pretty cool. Besides, this could be the first generation prototype. Give a few real scientists a chance to make this industrially efficient and more powerful, and we might have something here. Even if its not optimal now, doesn't mean what they created may not be useful in the future.


27 posted on 07/06/2005 9:02:41 AM PDT by Alexander Rubin (You make my heart glad by building thus, as if Rome is to be eternal.)
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To: Redbob

Duct it under/over/around the car, like the radiator does.


28 posted on 07/06/2005 9:03:01 AM PDT by Fierce Allegiance (This ain't your granddaddy's America!)
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To: jess35

Well, that sounds nifty, but does it dehumudify like a typical AC unit? How many Peltier chips would it take to cool down an entire house?



It would have to since the cooler air can't retain as much moisture it would probably condense on the chips and be drained off.


29 posted on 07/06/2005 9:05:00 AM PDT by freedomfiter2
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To: nonessential-personel

I suspect you're right. I noticed there was no mentioned of what happens to the heat created by the peltiers. Getting cool air to blow out of a fan is nice...but if it comes at a price of raising the normal temperature, what have you saved?


30 posted on 07/06/2005 9:05:13 AM PDT by jess35
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To: Fierce Allegiance

Even better, you could put a system in for each seat fairly easily.


31 posted on 07/06/2005 9:05:27 AM PDT by null and void (You'll learn more on FR by accident, than other places by design)
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To: skyman
11. Are there situations where compressor-based systems make more sense?
Yes. Generally, whenever a small compressor-based system would clearly be 'overkill' in providing a cooling solution, TE systems become the most viable choice. You find a 'gray area' amidst the medium-sized cooling jobs; here decisions ultimately come down to critical cost/benefit or design engineering considerations which are unique to each application. Given the present state of technology—unless there are unique overriding concerns—the compressor-based approach has distinct advantages in larger cooling systems such as standard-sized refrigerators and air-conditioning systems for buildings & vehicles. However, ongoing research into materials may one day make thermoelectrics practical for many of these larger applications.

This is from one of the manufacturers of Peltier effect devices. Source: Tellurex Corp.. Now, what do you suppose these kids know that Tellurex Corp doesn't?

32 posted on 07/06/2005 9:05:35 AM PDT by coloradan (Hence, etc.)
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To: Redbob

From what I've been reading on these things (google is a wonderful thing) water is excellent for removing the heat. An automobile looks to be the ideal platform for this system.

My guess is GM rejected it because of the engineering costs associated with a changeover. I suspect the Japanese are so interested in it because they are interested in technological improvements. When will Detroit ever learn!


33 posted on 07/06/2005 9:08:00 AM PDT by Arkie2 (No, I never voted for Bill Clinton. I don't plan on voting Republican again!)
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To: freedomfiter2

Right...and it probably wouldn't be a real good idea to have condensation build up on the chips.


34 posted on 07/06/2005 9:08:25 AM PDT by jess35
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To: Redbob
But the engine is going to turn the alternator regardless... As the electrical load increases the mechanical load on the engine does not. The only problem you may run in to is that there is not enough amperage left to recharge the battery. If you remove the mechanical load of the AC compressor from the engine, you will increase the MPG.
35 posted on 07/06/2005 9:11:26 AM PDT by myself6 (Nazi = socialist , democrat=socialist , therefore democrat = Nazi)
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To: FastCoyote

An A/C unit puts out a 100% cooling effect when it is running, so the system adds warm outside air in most autos to moderate the temperature or cycles the A/C full on or full off (as in the case of a house) to get a moderate cooling temperature. It seems inefficient to have the A/C running at 100% when it is not needed. The peltier chips would not have to be run in such an inefficient manner. You might only need to use half the number of installed chips when cooling at a moderate temperature. If you want more cooling, you bring more chips online.


36 posted on 07/06/2005 9:11:26 AM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: skyman

I guess the fuel savings will also be more in the south than in Canada.


37 posted on 07/06/2005 9:11:55 AM PDT by jtminton (Help stop second hand rap!)
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To: Poser
"they will be very rich."

Ask the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper switch how much money the Big 3 had paid him.

38 posted on 07/06/2005 9:15:31 AM PDT by Deguello
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To: skyman

It's amazing what people who aren't addicted to meetings can accomplish.


39 posted on 07/06/2005 9:15:37 AM PDT by AD from SpringBay (We have the government we allow and deserve.)
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To: Kirkwood

It's not inefficient to run something at the point of maximum efficiency, or not at all. In fact, that's the most efficient way to do it.


40 posted on 07/06/2005 9:15:42 AM PDT by coloradan (Hence, etc.)
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To: Redbob
That's right: the engine.

But isn't the alternator going to be running anyway? If the current is coming from the battery there shouldn't be increased stress/strain on the alternator.

41 posted on 07/06/2005 9:16:00 AM PDT by numberonepal (Don't Even Think About Treading On Me)
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To: myself6
As the electrical load increases the mechanical load on the engine does not.

Free energy! Get as much electricity as you want from any size engine!

Take a physics class before you embarass yourself anymore.

42 posted on 07/06/2005 9:16:14 AM PDT by hopespringseternal (</i>)
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To: skyman
I will still go with GM until I see some numbers on how efficient it is. It looks like a gas hog if it uses gasoline generated electricity!
43 posted on 07/06/2005 9:16:59 AM PDT by mountainlyons (alienated vet)
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To: coloradan

It is absolutely inefficient if you don't need the extra output. You are just throwing away energy.


44 posted on 07/06/2005 9:18:38 AM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: mountainlyons

Think down the road 20 years. Think about hybrid technology.


45 posted on 07/06/2005 9:21:50 AM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: null and void
Doesn't necessarily follow. The energy to charge the batteries has to come from somewhere.

Exactly, I have run the calculations and the fossile fules necessary to charge the batteries will quadruple the pollution levels in the US, killing millions of people the first year, oh well, it helps the global warming crowd, thus the award
46 posted on 07/06/2005 9:23:53 AM PDT by Scythian
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To: null and void

takes alot less to run an alternator than to run an a/c compressor. i've got a jeep that i increased gas mileage (and power output) by yanking the a/c and upgrading the alternator.


47 posted on 07/06/2005 9:25:32 AM PDT by absolootezer0 ("My God, why have you forsaken us.. no wait, its the liberals that have forsaken you... my bad")
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To: skyman
A Salt Lake City attorney is working to secure a patent.

It's still too early to know if the boys will receive the patent. Nonetheless, it's wonderful that our patent system allows anyone of any age to patent an invention. When these boys invented their AC unit, they were too young to vote and probably too young to drive legally. However, they weren't too young to receive a patent.

48 posted on 07/06/2005 9:25:43 AM PDT by Vision Thing (Hillary is a mad cow.)
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To: numberonepal

The load the alternator exerts on the engine is based on how much current it is supplying. This whole concept reeks of perpetual motion type physics. I can't imagine 5 of these things have the capacity to do much more than reduce the hot intake air to the ventilation system to ambient temperature, much less make the cabin comfortable.


49 posted on 07/06/2005 9:26:37 AM PDT by JustRight
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To: Deguello
Ask the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper switch how much money the Big 3 had paid him.

I think that guy did eventually win a huge court settlement based upon this stolen design.

50 posted on 07/06/2005 9:27:57 AM PDT by Obadiah
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