Ann Makosinski, the young inventor of a prize-winning body-heat powered flashlight, has now come up with a hands-free version — a body-heat powered headlamp.
The 16-year-old from Victoria showed off the new device at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto on Tuesday, where she received the 2014 Weston Youth Innovation Award for the flashlight concept.
Both the flashlight, which won a prize at the Google Science Fair in 2013, and the headlamp are powered by devices called Peltier tiles. The tiles produce a small amount of electricity when heated on one side by the palm of your hand or your forehead and cooled on the other by air passing through an aluminum tube.
The $2,000 Weston award, established in 2008, is given annually to a young Canadian who applies science in a creative way to make a positive difference in the world. In Makosinski's case, she hopes her inventions will help people in the developing world, such as a friend in the Philippines who first inspired her.
"She told me how she had failed her grade in school because didn't have any electricity, no light to study with at night," Makosinski recalled in an interview with CBC News.
She added that the devices would also be handy for emergency kits and for camping, since they don't require batteries.
With the headlamp, Makosinski said, it was challenging to create a design "that wouldn't be super heavy or clunky and like fall off your head."
Another challenge was finding a good enough heat sink, since the head radiates a lot of heat.
The current prototype features heat sinks that fan out on either side of the device and an LED bulb that sits atop a long stalk like a lollipop.
It has a solar panel for additional charging, and a capacitor that allows it to store power without a battery.
"You could just flick on the switch and it would produce light — it didn't matter if it's warm or cold," Makosinski said.
Normally, the devices work better when it's cold and there is a bigger temperature difference between the wearer's head and the air, though Makosinski says the difference can be as small as two or three degrees.
She has also added the pre-charging feature to the flashlight, which she is still working to improve.
Inventor to seek patents
Some manufacturers have expressed interest in making the device, she said, but "they're kind of all waiting until the flashlight's brightness is competitive with those on the market."
Makosinski said she hopes to put the money from her latest award toward patenting her devices.
In the meantime, she's pleased to be able to show off her inventions at the Ontario Science Centre.
"So many young children will also be able to see it and check it out and hopefully be inspired."
The Weston Youth Innovation Award is funded by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a private Canadian family foundation. In past years, it has been awarded for inventions such as a device that moves solar panels to face the sun and a biofilter to remove silver nanoparticles from wastewater.