How to build a miniature water powered generator

Written by rosy tyler
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How to build a miniature water powered generator
You'll need some hose. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Want to learn about hydroelectric power? Producing your own power from a miniature water mill generator is an easy way to get started. The principles are the same whether it's a large power plant supplied by a dam, or a pint-sized science project. How does it work? According to the Army Corps of Engineers, "A hydraulic turbine converts the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. A hydroelectric generator converts this mechanical energy into electricity." In this article, you'll learn how to use a homemade water wheel to convert the flowing water's energy into mechanical energy, and then a small hobby motor to convert the mechanical energy into electricity.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Water supply
  • Water hose
  • Small electric motor with 3 to 6 volts output
  • Large round cork -- at least 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter
  • Plastic spoons
  • Small diameter metal bushing (sized to fit snugly over the motor shaft)
  • Voltmeter
  • Electrical tape
  • Silicone glue
  • 15 cm (6 inch) stick or piece of wood
  • Electric drill

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  1. 1

    Drill a hole in the centre of the cork. Make it large enough so that the bushing fits snugly inside.

  2. 2

    Glue one end of the bushing inside the hole.

  3. 3

    Cut slots all around the outside of the cork. Make them the right size to hold the flat end of a plastic spoon, and make the slots parallel to the bushing.

  4. 4

    Glue the flat end of a plastic spoon into each slot. Make sure all the spoons are facing the same direction.

  5. 5

    Glue the end of the bushing (the one that's sticking out from the cork) onto the shaft of the motor.

  6. 6

    Connect the two motor wires to the probes of the voltmeter. Fasten with electrical tape.

  7. 7

    Set the voltmeter to DC volts, in the 2 to 12 range.

  8. 8

    Make a handle for your watermill generator by gluing a stick or piece of wood to the side of the motor. This makes it easier to hold the generator in the stream of water coming out of a garden hose.

  9. 9

    Using the handle, put the water wheel in the flow of water from the hose. Place the wheel so that only the spoons are in the water flow.

  10. 10

    Measure the voltage produced by the flowing water.

Tips and warnings

  • For a more advanced project, you can connect the generator wires to a small light bulb or LED light. If your water flow isn't very powerful, try the LED light first, because it requires less voltage to light up.

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