Hot Topic: The Next to Reimagine Energy

MARCH 30TH, 2017 | KYLE MARTIN

Think about how much heat builds up inside an attic on a summer day.

Now, convert that heat into a source of energy and you’ve got the basis for Michael Jernigan’s latest invention. It’s called “HeatRise,” and it harnesses differences in temperatures to power a light source. For Michael, a sophomore from Winter Haven studying electrical engineering, it’s validation of his belief in renewable energy.

“There’s so many ways to generate power beyond solar and wind,” he says. “There’s no excuse for not taking advantage of them all.”

The technology behind HeatRise, which holds a provisional patent, is based on thermoelectric concepts that are almost two centuries old. Michael used his knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) to create a device that can replace an overhead ceiling light and provide illumination without relying on a municipal power grid.

Because the parts are relatively inexpensive, Michael sees this as a useful tool for third world countries without access to reliable electricity for lighting. On a larger scale, governments could convert the heat absorbed by roads throughout the day into inexpensive energy. In the interim, he’s perfecting his product and searching for licensing partners.

Michael says Florida Poly provides an encouraging environment to explore groundbreaking ideas like HeatRise.

“It’s nice to be around people that every day are working on something or trying to figure something out,” Michael says. “It’s conducive, like a think tank.”