Thermoelectric Generator


ThermoelectricGeneratorA temperature difference causes an electric current to flow.



Principles Illustrated

ThermoelectricGenerator2Diffusion of charge carriers (electrons in a metal, holes in a semiconductor) to carry heat from hot to cold also results in an electric current.

NCEA & Science Curriculum

Related to PHYS 3.5 and PHYS 1.5 but this would be an extension.


Maintain two different temperatures for the two arms (eg, ice water and hot water) and watch it go!


This is a small, low power apparatus but one needs to exercise care with the hot water and follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Individual teachers are responsible for safety in their own classes. Even familiar demonstrations should be practised and safety-checked by individual teachers before they are used in a classroom.

Teaching Resources

Would you like to contribute lesson suggestions? Contact us.


Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators use a radioactive source to produce the required temperature difference. One needs no moving parts in this kind of generator! They have been used in spacecraft.


Our apparatus is from Pasco.


This teaching resource was developed with support from

The MacDiarmid Institute
Faculty of Science, Victoria University of Wellington
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington


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