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Pico Power Generation for

the Developing World

Loren Wyard-Scott 1 *
Dr. James Andrew Smith 2 *
Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

*Member, IEEE

Why Small Electrical

Generation Systems?
More affordable in isolated or low-income locations

Sustainable maintenance with local resources

Longer work days
Indoor working conditions

Schoolwork is possible even in the evening

Power Generation & Usage in

the Developed World
Minority of world population
Use a majority of energy resources
Electrical Lighting is abundant & taken
for granted
Pollution problems caused
by power generation

Earth at night. Where are the developed nations?


Energy use in a typical

American Home [1]

Total energy
consumed in America
in 1995:
9.2 1019 J [2]

[1] Energy Kids Page, U.S. Department of Energy,,
accessed 01 Dec 2008.
[2] Beursten, Bruce E., Theodore L. Brown & Eugene Le May Jr. Chemistry:
The Central Science. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997.

More Trivia
There are 34.2 MJ/L of automotive
gasoline [1].
Keep this in mind as you tackle this
[1]Nommensen, Arthur.
List of common conversion factors (Engineering conversion facto
. IOR Energy.

Power Generation & Usage in

the Developing World
Majority of the worlds population
2 billion people without modern lighting or power
Current Solutions

Carbon Monoxide
Sulfur Dioxide

Voting by candlelight in Haiti

Challenges Faced in the

Developing World
Limited electricity supply
Often no electrical grid
Only micro energy sources (diesel, solar, hydro)

Difficult operating conditions

Temperature ranges
High humidity
Dust and dirt

Limited replacement parts

Limited distribution infrastructure
Sustainability: require local businesses

Power Generation Examples

Bicycle Dynamo
3 Watts

Wind Turbine (typical):

1 Mega Watt
300,000 Bike Dynamos!

Hydro Plant (La Grande-1, Canada):

1400 Mega Watts

Coal Plant (typical):

500 Mega Watts

Nuclear Plant (Pickering, Canada):

4100 Mega Watts

1 Mega Watt: power for 1000 North American houses

Your mission: Pico Power!

We would like you to design and construct a
system that will provide a small amount of light
for a short duration.
The light will be a Light Emitting Diode (LED)
with a current-limiting resistor, and the duration
is to be a minimum of 10 minutes.
Moreover, during the 10 minutes, the user
needs to concentrate on reading, and so the
energy to power the light needs to be
generated before-hand and stored!

Development Process

Identification of problem


What is possible?
Keep it simple & effective!

Risk evaluation



What actuators and sensors? At what cost?

Determine level of functional replacement


What function is missing?

Talk to the clients/users!

Identification of affordable technology



Never underestimate what can go wrong!

Prototype device, test & start again (Steps 1 -5)

Test on larger population set
International certification
Manufacture & distribute device



Rapid Prototyping
Express - Test - Cycle approach to design

Identify a need & design objectives

Brainstorm for solutions
Express an idea in a physical device
Test the device
Discover problems that you werent aware of
Repeat until youve met the design objectives

Rapid prototyping systems

Combine modular, off-the-shelf components
Great for quick mock-ups & functional testing
Vector board
Speed Wire

Breadboard system

Outline of Technical Topics

Knowledge about key topics will help you succeed:
The basics:

Ohms Law
Power and Energy
Diodes (including LEDs)

Applied electrical engineering:

AC and DC Generation
Life of a Power Source

Electricity Background
Voltage [Volts]:
A force that tries to move electrons
Provided by devices such as batteries

Current [Amperes, Amps]:

This is the flow of electrons
Carried by wires

Resistance [Ohms]:
Resist the flow of electrons
Intentionally provided by resistors.
Unintentionally provided by almost all real-world

Ohms Law
Relates the main
electrical measures
Battery has constant
voltage [V]
Current [I] varies with
resistance [R]
Larger resistance
means smaller current

Power and Energy

Energy is measured in Joules
Power, measured in Watts, is
Energy per unit time:
Electrically, the power being
used in a circuit with fixed
voltage and current is:



Example: if a 12V battery provides 1 Amp of current to power the stereo in

your car, it is providing 12W of power. If the stereo is on for 1 hour, the
battery provides 12W(60 minutes)(60 seconds/minute) = 43,200 Joules.

Batteries as an Energy Source

Batteries are made of individual cells
Series cells: more voltage
Parallel cells: same voltage, longer life

Single Cell

Series Cells

Series & Parallel Cells

Resistances in Series & Parallel

Resistances in
series add up.

Req R1 R 2
Resistances in


Series Resistance


R1 R 2

Parallel Resistance

Voltage Drops
Batteries increase circuit voltage
Resistors & other devices drop voltage
Sum of drops equals battery voltage

Imagine walking on a mountain.

Battery raises you to the top
Resistors, etc. drop you down.

Temporarily store electrical
Can rapidly discharge
current when needed
Positive sign means it is
polarized & must be
connected right.
Where do you find them?
In circuit boards near
components that need steady
In camera flashes


Capacitors in Series & Parallel

Capacitances in
parallel add

Ceq C 1C 2
Capacitances in



C1 C 2

Capacitors: Energy Storage

Like batteries, capacitors store energy.
An ideal capacitor with a constant voltage
can store:


Capacitance is measured in Farads.

Be aware that capacitors have a maximum
rated voltage. Exceeding this voltage can
put the capacitor (or you) in danger.
Warning: large capacitors can store a lot of
energy. Always handle carefully!

Semiconductor devices
Current flows in one direction only
The diodes PN junction controls current
Anode & Cathode on either side of the
If the Anode has a more positive voltage Anode
than the Cathode, it is forward biased
Lets current through

Otherwise it is reverse biased

Will not let current through


Diodes: The Corner Model

A model is a simplified imaginary version of the
actual device
Apply a low voltage
It stays off
No electrons go through
Current is zero

Apply a high voltage

It turns on!
Electrons pass through
Current is allowed

Voltage drop across diode is constant: Vd

Light Emitting Diode

Light Emitting Diode
Operates like a
regular diode
The lens lets photons
Converts electrons to

Higher current
Brighter light!

LED Operation
To control brightness,
change the current by
changing the resistance
in the circuit
Vd depends on the LED
1V to 3V

If the battery is low, the

LED will not turn on
Too much current will
burn the LED out!

AC vs. DC Systems
Alternating Current (AC)
systems are those that
have time-varying (usually
sinusoidal) voltage current
Direct Current (DC)
systems have constant
voltage and current

AC Generators

Loads run at the same frequency as generators

Requires rectifiers & filters for DC loads
Very good for long distance power transmission
Bicycle Dynamos are AC generators

DC Motors as Generators

DC motors can be driven like generators

Brushes tend to wear out
Output is constant so rectifiers are not needed
Not efficient for long distance transmission (at lower voltages)

Rectifying I
The process of converting an AC waveform
into another waveform that has a DC
Recall that diodes operate as one-way
A half-wave rectifier is shown here:

Rectifying II
An improvement is a full-wave or bridge
Positive voltage: one diode pair on
Negative voltage: other diode pair on

Filtering I
If periodic / alternating voltages
need to be smoothed,
capacitors can be used as filters
Capacitors store electrical charge,
like a bucket stores water
Electrons are brought to the
capacitor by input current, like
drops of water into a bucket
When needed, capacitor outputs
current like the water buckets
output valve

Filtering II

The size of the capacitor, C, determines

how constant the output voltage is!


Regulating is the process of controlling the system to

get the output we want
Generator output can be regulated by

1. Changing the mechanical input speed

2. Circuitry on the electrical output

7805 Regulator (5 V, 0.5 - 1.0 Amp output)

Place between filtered rectifier and load

Pin 1: input (7 - 30 VDC)
Pin 2: Ground
Pin 3: output (5 VDC)
Add 0.33 uF filter caps

Pin 1 and Pin 2; Pin 3 and Pin 2


1 2 3

Life of a Power Source

Battery life
Inversely proportional to current

Low current operation

Higher resistance
Lower current
Weaker light & longer life

High current operation

Lower resistance
Higher current
Brighter light & shorter life

This applies to any device that stores

electrical energy, including capacitors!


Final Project:
Scenario & Goals

A remote village of 500 people

No night-time electricity
Have small low-power lamps


Build a small power source

10 minute (min) lamp operation
Preferably human-powered
Night-time discharging

Keep in mind:

Bas-Ravine, Haiti

Target group for the final design

What socio-economic factors affect engineering projects?
Where will the device be used?
How will the target group use the device?

Packaging for the Real World

KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Simpler designs have less flaws
Murphys Law: If it can go wrong, it probably will.

Intuitive usage
Nobody reads the manuals
Must be easy to recharge & operate!

Rugged design
Can you drop it without breaking it?

Design for the local environmental conditions

Dust, sand, snow, humidity, etc.

For more information

Micro Hydro Installations

Light Up The World (LUTW)

Bicycle Dynamo Rectifiers & Filters