Thomas Edison – Solar Powered Windows

There isn’t always enough room on buildings to locate solar electric [photovoltaic] panels to generate electricity; but what about the windows. Most buildings have plenty of them. Could solar windows help with getting more renewable / clean electricity generated?

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, reported that a thin film of “quantum dots” on everyday glass could be the key to achieving acceptable efficiencies in window-based photovoltaic systems. Researchers at MIT, the University of Toronto and others also are vigorously pursuing the dream of being able to literally spray a thin film of solar cells onto a suitable surface-including glass.

A concept for a solar window using quantum dots

A concept for a solar window using quantum dots

Quantum dots are nanometer-scale semiconductors [about 1-10 nanometers in size…compared to the thickness of human hair at about 25 nanometers ], that can be fashioned into electricity producing solar cells and complete solar panels.

A thin layer of quantum dots could be spread out onto normal window glass; and if applied properly and protected from the elements have a lifetime of up to 14 years. The processing technique for the quantum dot layers allows for the dots to do what they do well individually and also to work together in the transport of electrical charge to the edges of the film where it can then be collected to provide an electrical current.

Quantum dot cells can now generate about 2-8% of incoming sunlight to electrical energy. Traditional single crystal solar panels seen on roofs today typically exhibit 12-15% conversion efficiencies.

The exciting thing about this technology is quantum dots can be customized to absorb different wavelengths of light [i.e. think colors of the incoming light]-so a combination panel of many different customized dots could harvest energy across the entire solar spectrum of incoming light and hence produce large composite conversion efficiencies-probably double or triple the typical efficiencies of silicon panels today.

Editor’s Deep Dive:

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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Join the 2017 Thomas Edison Invention Challenge

All you K-12 inventors out there … it’s time again for the Thomas Edison Invention Challenge, the 2017 cycle. Check it out here: Edisoninventionchallenge.org

Join the 2017 Thomas Edison Invention Challenge

The Challenge started in 2010 to celebrate the spirit of invention, and to spur young folks to strive to become the next Thomas Edison! When Edison created his invention factory concept [later to become corporate R&D labs], he used a team-based, integrated or interdisciplinary, head and hands, approach to new product development— exactly what we recognize today as STEM. We can think of Edison as the original “STEM-meister”.

This cycle will challenge inventors to develop things that improve the qualitative life of people-the betterment of society in representative categories:

  • Alternate energy technology applications
  • Assisting the handicapped
  • Medically relevant products
  • Educational games
  • Intel Edison smart chips and coding for robotic/prosthetic applications

  • Winners receive 3D Printers and other cool prizes!
  • Virtual Competition- All submissions must be uploaded through a shared google drive folder. We do not accept any other type of submissions outside of Google drive.
  • K-12 Students are eligible to participate
  • $250 Teacher Stipend to all schools who complete the competition (1 per school)

Last year’s Challenge [2016] involved 13 States, 50+ schools, 2 countries, & well over 100 teams. Interested?

Don’t let the invention parade pass you by!

Several of Last year’s winners:

Middle School

Middle School

High School

High School

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Thomas Edison – Crowd Funding Your Invention

So you have a great idea and you have spent time and limited resources to refine that idea into a new prototype. It all works just fine in your makerspace. You have confidence that your prototype can be made into a full blown new product and meet the projected market you envision. So now what?

Thomas Edison – Crowd Funding Your Invention

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” –Thomas Edison

Experienced innovators say now comes the toughest part….getting people to invest in your vision and provide the funds to make that product ready for the marketplace. This is exactly what great shows like “Shark Tank” are all about, where the rubber meets the road, and that new product bumps up against reality. Getting a product to market requires very different skills than building a workable prototype in an isolated makerspace; and it often requires some additional product team members.

Innovation is the true test of new ideas. It is invention plus marketability! Edison had 10,000 employee mouths to feed at his legendary West Orange Labs. He and his new product development staff had to convert ideas to prototypes and then secure the funding to take it to market or raise the money themselves directly. Edison spent a great deal of time in New York City with the likes of J. P. Morgan and others to secure funding for bold new disruptive technologies.

In days past, the chief method of obtaining the necessary funding for breaking into the marketplace was bankers, venture capitalists and perhaps a consortium of investors [like Shark Tank]. This is still true today, but with the ubiquitous Internet, one can use crowdsource funding and a variety of other ways to reach out to potential investors or interested parties.

Check out some crowdsource type funding here:

For all the inventors and innovators out there, stay focused. It’s a tough business. Only about 4 out of 160 ideas become a viable product in the marketplace. Do not neglect the marketing/sales/economic end of the equation. Innovation is much more than just cool technology.

Thomas Edison – Crowd Funding Your Invention

“I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” –Thomas Edison

Keep in mind the Edison business philosophy:

  • Think out of the box
  • Be entrepreneurial … take risks
  • Fail your way to success
  • Success demands that you improve your products

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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