Energy Harvester (Buck-Boost)

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Energy Harvester

The Energy Harvester is a kit designed to allow you to use harvest power from any power sources including lemons and thermal energy to power useful things, cell phones, USB chargers, etc.

The Design

The design originally started as a lab to teach engineering freshmen about DC-DC converters. Eventually the requirements lead it to be a full buck boost regulator.



Schematic and PCB Layout:

Ordering Parts:


Assembling the Circuit

The circuit assembles easily. For those without soldering equipment it can also be purchased fully assembled.

Using it

Acceptable Power Sources:


-dead batteries

-under voltage batteries (AA)

-chemistry cell

-thermal electric

-solar cell (single cell or multiple cells in parallel)

-organic mold


-6V lantern battery

-12V SLA (motorcycle, car battery)

-solar cell (3+ cells in series)

-18V cordless tool battery

Buck Boost:

-dynamo Lego hand crank

-Wind turbine, 9v dc motor, and propeller

-steam generator

Teaching using the Energy Harvester

Quiz (15min)


Gunter MacGyver Video (5 min)

  • video of georgi stranded and opening his truck to find multiple power sources and the energy harvester

Energy Harvester Explained (that inside is a boost and a buck)

Gunter MacGyver using the device calling for help


Boost concept explain in detail

Buck concept explained in detail

Buck-boost concept explained in detail

Part 1 of lab:

Students use AA to power plasma ball – fail

Students use Elvis to characterize AAs and plasma ball

Students pick a topology (boost)

Ta gives them a boost

Students use AA and boost to successfully power plasma ball

Students return material

Part 2 of lab:

Students use car Battery to power LED – controlled destructive fail

Students use elvis to characterize car battery and led

Students pick a topology (buck)

Ta gives them a buck

Students us car battery and boost successfully to power led

Students return material

Part 3 of Lab:

After that destructive failure students skip just trying it and use science first

Students use Elvis to characterize hand crank dynamo.

Students notice the wide input range and pick a topology (buck-boost)

Students must also add D+/D- line modifications.

Students use buck boost and hand crank to charge a dead mp3 player to life

Part 4 of Lab:

Students test that all these devices work

Students get the tools to modify this to be a generic USB charger

  • Boost get AA battery holder
  • Bucks get a 12V car outlet plug

Test and Enjoy

Part 4 (Alt) of Lab:

Students are given an unknown device and must modify it in order to save their grade. This will be a competition where cunning, speed and diligence will win.