Big Oil Rooster

Big Oil Rooster is powered by tea-lights.

My 2013 rooster project is Big Oil Rooster. Its at Atomic Rooster for a month ending on October 13 (vernissage September 17th).

Big Oil Rooster drives a thermoelectric powered car powered by tea-lights. I figure tea-lights are safe enough. Most venues already have them so we’re not adding anything to the environment.

This is a fascinating way to get power. It’s like an RTG (Radioisotope thermoelectric generator) which is used on space vehicles such as Curiosity (currently on Mars) and New Horizons (Pluto flyby on its 10 year journey). The difference is it uses some tea lights as a heat source instead of a radioactive source.

My previous rooster projects were Electric Rooster (crank power), Glut Rooster (pull cord) and Interference Rooster (plug in).

Big Oil rooster is 12×19″ and made from hardboard, aluminium angle, found parts and fasteners.

The working title was Thermoelectric Rooster. I’m in two minds about the change. I like Thermoelectric because it’s a bigger word and it says less (more abstract). But it is run by big oil since wax in tealights comes from petroleum.

How It Works

Heat is gathered from tea-lights by an aluminium collector. The heat is directed to the lower side of a Peltier cell. The top side of Peltier is in contact with a chiller (top). The Peltier effect (aka thermoelectric effect) generates electricity from a heat gradient! Yay, electricity!

This electricity runs motors (electrically in parallel) and viola the piece moves. No batteries or plug in required. It makes its own electricity from the heat.

My backup piece is Chaos Rooster. I like having two projects on the go. If one get’s stuck, I can work on the other while thinking. I think the Chaos Rooster has a lot of potential so perhaps it will be my main project for the next show. As you can see by my rooster project reports, there are quite a few other roosters in the pipe. Which should I finish next?

How It Was Made

I had a bit of trouble making this work with the parts I had. I was a bit worried and started a backup project for the event this doesn’t work well enough (further down).

As you can see in the pictures I tried two heat sources. One idea was to burn Zambooka. Michael and I tried using solder wick to try and get a bit of a mantle going. This didn’t create enough heat. There’s too much water and it doesn’t burn clean. So I decided to use tea lights.

As you can see I tried several different heat sinks, different Peletier cells and chillers.

I made a test stand for the generator to prove the concept and do a good test run.

I designed all the pieces and cut them out using a CNC machine. Then assembled them using fasteners and glue.

I was pleased with the result.

Chaos Rooster

IMG_0163-1000This is my backup rooster project (in case the thermo-electric one doesn’t work). This will be a rooster that flies around randomly and tips over a lot (represented by a circle in the proof of concept).

This will be a three-axis compound pendulum (which exhibits chaotic motion). After running my prototype a bit I started to think Drunk Rooster might be a better title.

Compound pendulums are quite mesmerizing. The technical challenges I’m looking at for this one are:

  • Weight of ballast will require secure wall mounting.
  • Keeping the friction low so I can run with a lower period (slower).
  • Driving it. I’m supposing a flying magnet, magnetic switch, drive coil, transistor and an arduino should do the trick but that might be tricky to get working.


Time Rooster

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