Edison’s Hero: Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday [1791 – 1867] was a self-taught physicist and chemist, and a hero to both Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. Faraday is best known for his discoveries of the laws of electrolysis, his giant invention of the electric motor, and electromagnetic induction [the production of a voltage across a conductor when it is exposed to a varying magnetic field-the very foundation for how motors and transformers work.]

Edison’s Hero: Michael Faraday

Faraday was born on the outskirts of London, in a family of modest means. He received little formal education and was largely self-taught. His first job was an apprenticed bookbinder where he had opportunity to read many books; becoming enamored with chemistry- an interest he would share with Edison. At age twenty, he became an assistant to and secretary to the British scientist Sir Humphrey Davey, a giant in science and chemistry. Later, after a somewhat stormy relationship with Davey, he would become his own force in the field of science. Faraday ultimately became the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a lifetime position.

Like Edison, Faraday was a brilliant experimentalist; and also like Edison, was limited in his application of higher math knowledge. Both men probably had no more than limited algebra and some trigonometry skills picked up along the years. When Edison was a budding telegrapher in his teens, he is said to have read Faraday’s major work, “Experimental Researches in Electricity”, which many later scientists used to extend his fundamental work.

Edison’s Hero: Michael Faraday

Faraday gave memorable public lectures demonstrating his discoveries and popularizing his electrical technology. He is enshrined in the pantheon of electric engineering with the unit of capacitance…the “Farad”, named in his honor.

Learn more about Faraday:

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.

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Ford Goes Off the Grid

Why can’t your car do double duty? Most of the time, 94% in fact, your car just sits there parked. What if you could make it do something useful during that time … say, like charge an electric vehicle’s batteries?

Ford has come out with a solar roof for cars for just that purpose – to re-charge batteries. Ford calls this vehicle the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. This hybrid vehicle has 300 watts to 350 watts of SunPower Corp. solar cells on the roof, but with a special and really cool twist.

The concept includes a low cost canopy-like parking structure that uses cheap, acrylic, Fresnel lenses to focus sunlight on the car’s solar panels, greatly improving (concentrating) ambient sunlight and hence boosting the collection efficiency of the solar cells-by as much as 50%! This concentrating feature was developed with the Georgia Institute of Technology; and actually shifts the car’s position relative to the sun throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky, thus maximizing solar collection all day long.

The concept allows the car to re-charge during the day-independent of the conventional grid, making it standalone. Ford says using this vehicle would reduce annual gas emission by four metric tons per owner each year.

Ford Goes Off the Grid

Can you see these concentrating canopies being added to existing car garages? Maybe special parking lots that feature this? Maybe municipal and company car fleets would have these canopies installed to reduce fleet vehicle fuel costs?

Has anyone told Tesla about this?

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.”

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Channeling Thomas Edison – Solar Chimneys

Thomas Edison would think this technology slick. Solar aficionados would probably brand it cool; and engineers would think it elegant and sophisticated. They would all be right, and also impressed by the size of the application.

Time for a mental picture…ready? Think of a several square mile in size circular greenhouse array where hot desert air enters the edge of the greenhouse. Rising from the center of the circular greenhouse is a chimney-like structure, perhaps twice the size of the Empire State building. Hot air rises, and in this design, quite rapidly – fast enough to spin electricity generating turbines at the base of the chimney, probably enough to generate 100-200 MW of power, enough for maybe 100,000 to 200,000 homes.

If you have ever felt a rush of air up a fireplace chimney, or exited an elevator in a tall office building and experienced a rush of air around the elevator chase, then you know what I am talking about here. Solar chimneys [often referred to as solar towers, or solar updraft towers] take this effect to much greater levels.

Check out this video:

This technology is not new, dating back to the turn of the last century, with several early designs built and tested in the 1930s. All that circular space at the bottom of the chimney can be used to grow crops and maybe ornamental plants. Locating these systems in arid or desert areas would be ideal; and might be a very useful power generation option for sun-soaked, resource poor developing countries.

Solar Chimneys - Channeling Thomas Edison

How It Works

Solar Chimneys - Channeling Thomas Edison

Design Concept

Solar Chimneys - Channeling Thomas Edison

Greenhouse with Plants

The incorporation of solar absorbing materials inside the vast greenhouse area, something as simple as black containers holding water, stone or cement floors, could extend the daily hours of operation past when the sun sets-a kind of thermal flywheel.

In the next several years, sites in Arizona and West Texas could host demonstrations of this technology.

Editors 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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