Posted by: GW7AAV | December 19, 2009

Bibles, Thermopiles and the KGB

In the 1970’s we had a family friend who had spent most of the 1960’s as a Christian missionary smuggling bibles in to the Soviet Union. He always told wonderful stories of his adventures and how he travelled extensively behind the Iron Curtain paying his way with Wrangler Jeans and Wriggles Chewing Gum. He had been a member of the Communist Party as a way of appearing a legitimate visitor but that did not stop him from being constantly followed by KGB agents or from finding that every room in every hotel he stayed in was bristling with hidden microphones. Somehow he usually managed to evade his followers and travelled to places where tourist were not supposed to go, to meet his contacts and distribute his contraband. The problem was that avoiding the secret police drew attention to him and after a few near misses, were he was interrogated and then released, he was caught red handed and spent six months in a Siberian Labour Camp. If the tale of his escape is not in a book somewhere it probably should be but it ended with him crossing from East To West Berlin in the boot of a car, where he would have been caught if someone had not chosen that moment to make a run for it.

It was while he was in the Siberian prison camp that he came across a radio receiver powered by a kerosene lamp. He explained that the lamp had what is known as a thermopile which directly converts heat in to electricity. A thermopile is a mass of hundreds or thousands of thermocouple junctions in parallel and series to generate a useful amount of current. A thermocouple works due to the fact that when there is a junction of two dis-similar metals and there is a temperature difference a current flows.

I had no reason to disbelieve him or his amazing stories but for years I wondered if this thing really existed. For some reason after many years it suddenly popped in to my head and the wonders of the Internet let me research the subject. Sure enough there it was a kerosene lamp with a thermopile powering a transistor radio.

Visit this link to find out more.

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Responses

  1. Yes, there are solid state devices now called Peltier Modules, that are normally used to cool CPU’s but can be run in reverse, IE use a temperature difference accross the unit to generate electricity.


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