Posts belonging to Category Inventions Edison Would Love



Thomas Edison Salutes a New Form of Energy Storage

Since the 1920s about 2% of the world’s electrical capacity has been supplied by pumped hydro installations. These massive hydroelectric storage batteries can respond within seconds, and improve overall grid efficiency. However hydroelectric facilities can be severely site limited; and cause significant impacts on the environment.

Typical hydroelectric pumped storage facility is a large scale, environmentally intense project

Typical hydroelectric pumped storage facility is a large scale, environmentally intense project

What if we had a large storage device that could be recycled indefinitely with no lasting environmental concerns either? Furthermore, what if something else could be used instead of water, with little environmental impact?

Such a concept is called the Advanced Rail Energy Storage system (ARES); and a 50 MW utility-size system is now in operation in southern Nevada. Check it out. The system is also much cheaper than traditional pumped hydro facilities.

An ARES “shuttle train”

An ARES “shuttle train”

ARES energy storage technology employs a fleet of electric traction drive shuttle-trains, operating on a closed low-friction automated steel rail network to transport a field of heavy masses [rocks, concrete, etc.] between two storage yards at different elevations.

During periods where excess energy is available on the grid, ARES shuttle-trains draw electricity from the grid, which powers their individual axle-drive motors, as they transport a continuous flow of masses (rock/concrete) uphill against the force of gravity to an upper storage yard. When the grid requires energy to meet periods of high demand, this process is reversed. The shuttle-trains provide a continuous flow of masses returning to the lower storage yard with their motors operating as generators, converting the potential energy of the mass’s elevation back into electricity in a highly efficient process.

At the Nevada site, shuttle trains move up and down a change of about 3,000 feet. At the end of the system’s 40-year lifetime, the rails are removed followed by regrading of the land back to original conditions—no lasting environmental impacts. Think about this … large wind turbines could also supply the excess energy to charge up this energy storage system!

Edison’s original electric storage batteries can be considered tiny portable pumped hydro facilities. He realized his electric utility equipment would function more efficiently if it could run all the time, even with the daily ups and downs of electric demand. Energy storage would make it possible to charge batteries for use later during the day … in electric vehicles. Certainly, Edison would like this innovative ARES concept!

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 Would Love Artificial Intelligence

Mention artificial intelligence and folks automatically think robots … sometimes true but certainly not always. It is our desire to associate something physical with this highly mathematical science. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence exhibited by machines or software. It is also the name of the academic field which studies how to create computers and computer software that are capable of intelligent behavior.

Visualizing the AI Thing

Visualizing the AI Thing

It’s not all that new, harking back to the 1950s; modern versions of it being built within high level chess games, medical diagnostic programs and trouble-shooting fixes. Anyone who has read through automotive repair manuals negotiating a series of questions to funnel down to a likely problem is actually using a common form of AI known as an “expert system”

Neural networks mimic complex systems.Riding a bike is a neural network function-balance for a biped walking robot is another. Seeing trends in massive data streams is another application; as are classifying problems into similar basic categories/groups.

Some common application families under the AI umbrella

Some common application families under the AI umbrella

The main goals of artificial intelligence include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing (communication), perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. Just a quick smattering of the kinds of applications AI can be used for:

  • Pattern recognition/classification
  • Optimization problems
  • Image processing
  • Simulation
  • Autonomous control of aerial vehicles
  • Pilotless cars/vehicles
  • Missile navigation
  • Smart homes/smart utility systems
  • Robotic control and mobility
  • Advanced learning techniques
  • Stock market simulation/modeling

When Edison codified how to transform raw ideas into marketable products through what became R&D labs, his process, composed of discrete steps (sub-processes) was actually an expert system. In fact, this versatile expert system soon spread all over the world, changing forever the business community and its realization of what technology driven product development could do for a country’s standards of living … what we recognize today as “progress”. GE immortalized this in their 1950’s corporate tagline …”progress is our most important product.” Way to go, Tom!

Keep your eyes on AI and be patient. It will change the world and how we do many things.

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 Smiles Down on Young Inventors

To an excited crowd of parents, students, and teachers, the winners of the 7th annual Thomas Edison Invention Challenge were announced and celebrated at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP]. The contest celebrates inventors from across the country, and in this case, some overseas entries as well.

Originally 118 student teams from over 80 schools entered the contest, with about 22 teams qualifying for run-off. From this, 6 winning teams shown below were celebrated at TENHP.

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

All finalists

All finalists

Elementary/Middle Schools

1st Place – Montague School: Team NATEX: Solar Key Light
Solar panel charges during the day which charges two batteries. These batteries give energy to the light in the evening giving an efficient light that allows for users to view their keyhole while entering their home at night. This is a unique way of saving energy and omitting a homeowner from needing to use their porch light at night to enter their home.

Middle School First Place: Nathan and Teacher Karen Goyette

Middle School First Place: Nathan and Teacher Karen Goyette

2nd Place – Betsy Ross Elementary: Mahwah Inventors Team: Lung Exerciser for Assisted Living Folks L.E.A.F
This invention will help people in assisted living get more oxygen to their lungs and get rid of carbon dioxide. This will improve lung function of assisted living residents, make them stronger, improve the quality of their lives, and prevent very serious complications like pneumonia. This device is used as an exercise, as the user must blow the turbine which will then give them an idea of their lung capacity and strength. If the user continuously uses this device their lung capacity will theoretically grow.

3rd Place – Pequannock Valley Middle School: Panthers: Solar Charged Fitbit
This device will aid and prompt users to get outside and walk more. A never ending supply of solar power to a “Fitbit” would aid consumers in wanting to get out and walk challenging themselves on a daily basis to push themselves to further limits.

High School

1st Place – Seton Hall Prep: Design Team 1: Heated Shovel
This invention was created to aid individuals in the winter. The heated shovel allows for users to shovel for extended periods of time without getting cold hands. The warmers heat up two grips that in turn warm the hand. The device is rechargeable making constant use feasible.

High School First Place: Charles and David—Teacher, Kelly Ford

High School First Place: Charles and David—Teacher, Kelly Ford

2nd Place – Seton Hall Prep: Design Team 2: Solar-Pirate
This device allows for users to charge their cellular device without the need of an outlet. This device is both cost and energy efficient. The user simply plugs in their device and places the solar panel in direct sunlight. The device is marketed at roughly half the market value of portable charges creating consumer ease and financial savings.

3rd Place – Mt. Olive High School: Public Assisted Lift Chair
This chair acts as an aid in going from a sitting position to a standing. This device will aid in lower the risk of osteoporosis, stress on the knees and even fractures. The device uses sensors that would assist the user in standing as the sensors pick up weight differentiation. The prototype would be powered by wind or solar energy alternative forms of energy. This device is marketed to the elderly and those with joint issues.

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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