Posts belonging to Category Inventions Edison Would Love



Batteries for Electric Utility Support

In Springfield Missouri, the local utility (Cities Utilities) and a battery manufacturer (NorthStar) are demonstrating how battery storage can help reinforce and extend the life of a substation in a growing area of the city. They are joining a movement in the utility industry to use batteries to defer costly system reinforcements.

The 1,140 installed 12-volt lead acid batteries will help smooth the substation’s load as the weather heats up, and allow it to postpone or perhaps eliminate the need for costly upgrades in an area where commercial and residential electric load growth is growing. NorthStar sells lead acid batteries around the world, largely for use in vehicles, cellphone towers and backup power systems.

This is NorthStar’s first foray into the utility energy storage market, confident the project will demonstrate that its batteries can play a role in managing the electric grid. This utility-business partnership has the support of clean energy advocates.

Batteries can be a very viable alternative to traditional reinforcements to utility substations, which often can involve additional distribution infrastructure or perhaps local generation. Batteries are relatively cheap, modular and can be deployed in months; and if necessary, even moved.

Tom cradles his legendary Nickel-Iron storage battery

Tom cradles his legendary Nickel-Iron storage battery


The utility/manufacturer team will closely monitor the $1 million, 1.1 MW battery system, especially as increasing summer temperatures impact the local grid served by the substation. Charging and discharging the batteries in a balanced manner is important to monitor and assess as well.

Why choose lead acid batteries? While lithium batteries are much lighter, can charge more quickly and generally have longer lifespans than lead batteries, they also require cobalt, a mineral with an escalating price and potential supply challenges in the future. And the lead in nearly all batteries is recycled. Recycling systems don’t yet exist for lithium batteries.

Can you envision Thomas Edison smiling down on all this, so visionary in his development of battery systems way back in the early 1900s! And don’t forget, our modern electric utility system stems directly back to old Tom and his central station concept and electric distribution system demo in New York City in 1882.

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Admires Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells as a “Killer App”

Fuel cells are both fascinating and highly promising. Edison actually tried his inventive hand at very early fuel cell technology— see a previous blog we published at www.edisonmuckers.org/fuel-cells-with-a-thomas-edison-connection/. Nationally, we first learned about fuel cells during the U.S. space missions of the 1960s where they were used in the Apollo moon landing vehicles [remember: “Houston we have a problem!”]. Today they are being touted as possible clean energy sources for our oil-addicted, and terribly polluting, internal combustion engines.

One of the special fuel cell technologies, known as molten carbonate fuel cells, is especially promising. Operating at high temperatures, this fuel cell can be used to recycle/capture carbon dioxide from power plants, and while doing so, generate clean electricity as well to supplement the output of the power plant it is attached to. Think of it as a gateway to carbon dioxide [and thus carbon itself] sequestration.

How a molten carbonate fuel cell works

How a molten carbonate fuel cell works

Think of a large coal-fired power plant or perhaps a natural gas-fired hybrid power plant that is producing electricity, and also pumping out carbon dioxide. What if it is possible to attach a piece of equipment to these power plants that literally filters out the carbon dioxide, stores it; and allows that carbon rich air stream to be used for the fuel cell to generate its own clean electrical power? People would salute that don’t you think-after all it’s a win-win for the earth’s air quality.

Carbon dioxide in the normal fuel cell’s operation is recycled because it plays an active part in the electrochemical process within the fuel cell. By breaking this recycling loop, the carbon dioxide can be concentrated, stored and used for other purposes; or perhaps injected into the ground. Fresh carbon dioxide would always be available as the operational fossil-fired power plant would generate it.

A molten carbonate fuel cell plant for use with an existing or new power plant

A molten carbonate fuel cell plant for use with an existing or new power plant

At the James M. Barry Electric Generating Station, operated by Southern Company, FuelCell Energy Inc. and ExxonMobil, working under Department of Energy agreements will host a test of fuel cell carbon capture technology. Typical existing carbon capture processes at power plants consume energy. This technology has the potential to increase electricity production, reduce costs and lead to a more economical method of large-scale carbon capture; and allow our nation to continue to use its vast coal and natural gas resources. Thomas Edison would applaud the fuel cell work done so far and anxiously await more progress!

Editor’s Deep Dive

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

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Pitch Contest Winners

To a festive crowd of parents, students, teachers and invited guests, the winners of the 8th annual Thomas Edison Invention Challenge were announced and celebrated at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [“Edison Park”]. The contest celebrated inventors from across the country.

Twenty-eight (28) teams across 6 states competed to make it to Edison Park for a top honors, run-off pitch contest. Six (6) finalist teams, three in the middle school and three in the high school categories went head to head. Teams “pitched” their invention, in person, before a 3 judge panel.

Here is a summary of the awards in both the middle school and high school award categories.

The finalists.

The finalists.


Elementary/Middle School Category

 

1st Place: The Village School, Houston, TX (SKYPED-in for Pitch Competition)

BIOQUATTUOR – “A Model of an Insulin Delivery Robot”
The Insulin Bot will help give a person with diabetes the correct dosage of insulin that they need, allowing them to handle the healthy diet and exercise. The Insulin Bot turns sweat into energy which is then used to put insulin directly into the bloodstream and test glucose levels. Unlike traditional insulin pumps, the Insulin Bot is inexpensive, not dangerous to the human body, saves time and is not bulky.

Team Members: Ava Greer, Sophie Onuki, Amber Zou, Taylor Zhang

Team Members: Ava Greer, Sophie Onuki, Amber Zou, Taylor Zhang

2nd Place: Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, Livingston, NJ

CREATIVE CAPS – “Wind Powered Water Well & Water Filtration”
This team created a wind-powered well that takes the water and filters it so it lessens the amount of manual labor required to get water in third world countries. Once the water is filtered with this product, a solar powered buzzer goes off to let the user know that filtering is complete and the water is ready to drink or use. The wind turbine placed in the well provides an easy way to lift the bucket.
Team Members: Miriam Bash, Jack Helprin, Hannah Koppel, Nathaniel Savitz

3rd Place: Athens Middle School, Coxsackie, NY

The Fab 4 – “A Water Runoff Turbine”
This team’s invention, The Runoff Repeller, separates contaminated storm water runoff from the sanitized water to help our rivers and oceans in order to clean them. Chemicals and toxic sprays from fertilized crops can be swept away by storms and brought into bodies of water right near our homes. The Repeller ensures that rocks and chunks of dirt/garbage are caught and do not enter the water supply.
Team Members: Leslie Hinrichsen, Hannah Osborn, Andrew Sage, Alex Slater


High School Category

 

1st Place: Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, NJ

SHPREME – “Bicycle Mounted Charging System”
This team’s invention looks to solve the issue of bike riders’ phones running out of battery by using a source of energy that does not harm the environment. This source would be the man-powered energy generated by the rotations of the rear tire. The rear tire rotates a 3D-printed gear which spins a separate connected gear which rotates the shaft of a generator. The rotation of the generator shaft creates an electrical current that flows from the generator into a power bank which then charges the phone via a normal iPhone charging cord.

Team Members: Aidan Gaul, Ross Johnson, Timothy Metcalf, Brian Mueller

Team Members: Aidan Gaul, Ross Johnson, Timothy Metcalf, Brian Mueller

2nd Place: Lacey Township High School, Lanoka Harbor, NJ

ALVOLT – “Mechanical Heart Valve”
This team’s invention is an electrically motorized valve replacement with an ultrasonic sensor to regulate the aortic valve’s leaflets to coincide with the blood flow of the systole and diastole phases. This invention is meant to significantly help a patient’s postoperative and cardiovascular health, along with the aorta, which is the most important artery in the heart.
Team Members: Hailey Carskaddan, Samantha Kievit, Kali Pullin, Seda Turkoglu

3rd Place: Chatham High School, Chatham, NJ

Chatham Cougars – “Inflatable Lower Leg Field Splint”
This team’s invention, the Inflataboot, is an inflatable leg brace to be used in emergency situations ranging from a sprain to a broken ankle. Often times, people find themselves in a situation where they do not know how to apply a brace or do not have time to learn how to. It is more convenient than carrying around a bulky brace, and more effective than wasting time assembling one.
Team Members: Kasper Bardecki, Thomas Giordano, Julia Lin, Kaitlin Pinaire

 


Thomas Edison said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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