Happy Birthday Thomas Edison! (February 11th)

Happy Birthday Thomas Edison! (February 11th)

Born: Milan, Ohio

Occupation: Inventor, entrepreneur, project manager, technology leader, manufacturer, businessman

Accomplishments: 1,093 patents

Major industries impacted:

  • music industry (phonographs)
  • motion pictures (camera to projector)
  • power industry/electric light bulb
  • the West Orange invention factory [R&D labs]

Championed and built [100 years ago]:

  • electric vehicles
  • storage batteries
  • in-garage charging stations
  • revamped the concrete industry with new and larger kiln designs (Portland Cement)
  • major improvements to telephone in collaboration with Alexander Graham Bell

Most Recognized Edison Quote: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Impact on the World:

  • The technology, inventions and industries that he created still account for $1.5 trillion of U.S. economy [about 10% of U.S. GDP]; about 4 times that for world economy
  • Life Magazine [1996] proclaimed him the “Man of the Millennium”
  • TIME Magazine featured him on cover of special July 2010 history issue-proclaiming him so relevant to our world today
  • Voice of America claims Edison’s technology is responsible for one-fourth of all the world’s jobs
  • He is the human icon for invention and creativity
  • Inspiration to generations of inventors and entrepreneurs

His multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary method of problem solving has become the taproot for the hands-on, problem solving paradigm known as STEM, now sweeping the nation’s schools

FANS – Acknowledged Edison during their career

  • Steve Jobs, Apple
  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  • Google Team, Innovators
  • Bon Jovi, Musician
  • Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

FURTHER INFORMATION ON THOMAS ALVA EDISON
WWW.THOMASEDISON.ORG
WWW.EDISONMUCKERS.ORG

Share

Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Biomass Conversion

Solar energy applications are not just the solar electric panels that convert sunlight to electricity, or the majestic large, spinning, wind turbines we see on the great plains or in offshore clusters. Solar applications also include the use of biomass…..organic materials grown and then processed into fuel or useful products.

Here is what the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] has to say about biomass applications:

  • Biofuels — Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation
  • Biopower — Burning biomass directly, or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity
  • Bioproducts — Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum

Biofuels can be used to supplement our energy sources, replace existing petrochemical energy sources, reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy, and reduce the environmental impact/greenhouse gas emissions of petrochemical energy use.

Every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up a dollar, it costs the Navy $31 million in extra fuel costs. The U.S. military is very interested in alternative fuels — in particular, the wood-based biofuels being researched and produced at the University of Maine. Check out this amazing process.

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine holding a bottle of biofuel made from wood materials. This biofuel can be used as is as a substitute for heating oil or refined a bit more for use as a premium transportation fuel/jet fuel.

It is fascinating to remember Thomas Edison experimented with biomass back in the late 1920s, trying to find common plant materials that could be processed to become a viable substitute for rubber. In his painstaking years of work, Edison and his staff evaluated about 17,000 candidate plant species, to develop a giant cross-bred goldenrod plant that could grow as tall as 12 feet; and whose structure contained about 12% rubber. In 1927, Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone formed the Edison Botanic Research Corporation of Fort Myers. Plants were collected in Florida and throughout the southern United States by field collectors. Plants were grown under controlled conditions in Florida and at Edison’s laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey.

Edison in Fort Myers

Edison in Fort Myers in 1931, along with his giant goldenrod plant, later named after him, Solidago edisoniana.

The plant processing equipment Edison used in his West Orange Chemistry Lab to facilitate the extraction of latex rubber from his goldenrod and other candidate plants.

The plant processing equipment Edison used in his West Orange Chemistry Lab to facilitate the extraction of latex rubber from his goldenrod and other candidate plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Share

MIT Nanotech Battery – an Edison Style Innovation

Over 100 years ago, Edison’s work with storage batteries for electric vehicles often took on mythic proportions. Tens of thousands of experiments were conducted and untold man-hours expended to develop his legendary and rugged nickel-iron storage battery; a product that was widely sold and adapted to many applications and industries. Were Edison alive today he would be clapping loudly at the new MIT Flow Battery-emerging from the research lab to be commercialized by 24M Technologies.

A sample of 'Cambridge crude' — a black, gooey substance that can power a highly efficient new type of battery. A prototype of the semi-solid flow battery is seen behind the flask. | Photo: Dominick Reuter

A sample of 'Cambridge crude' — a black, gooey substance that can power a highly efficient new type of battery. A prototype of the semi-solid flow battery is seen behind the flask. | Photo: Dominick Reuter

Researchers at MIT have used nanotechnology and proven lithium-ion chemistry to completely revolutionize how we think about the venerable storage battery. It could be the holy grail for making electric vehicles very competitive. Called a flow battery, the two thick-gooey chemical mixtures of this system are kept in separate containers until energy is needed – then the reactants flow through a special reactor to produce electricity. What this means is re-charging a battery is no longer about long waits as it is stuffed with electricity, but simply pumping fresh liquids into the separate tanks…..perhaps not so different in the future as saying “filler ‘er up” as we do now at a traditional gasoline station.

The technological magic resides in the gooey black liquids, which for all purposes can be envisioned as liquefied versions of the anode[negatively charged] and cathode [positively charged] of a battery. The positive and negative posts are distributed throughout the black goo in the two tanks in the form of nano-particles. In the energy making process, the two oppositely charged liquids are pumped past a special membrane in the reactor and out comes clean electricity to run your car.

Source: Internet announcements of MIT Flow Battery-showing the two storage tanks and reactor for producing clean electricity.

Source: Internet announcements of MIT Flow Battery-showing the two storage tanks and reactor for producing clean electricity.

This reinterpretation of a battery into separate structures changes lots of things. For one, it could be much cheaper to make these systems than traditional batteries. The energy storage capability or energy density of these systems could be radically improved over traditional batteries….maybe pushing electric vehicle range to being on par with gasoline vehicles. One could make different grades of black goo for better performance and improved mileage. The system might last longer than expensive storage batteries of today. Certainly, this MIT advance changes the battery universe…..a disturbance in the force, ala` Star Wars. Energy storage for such things as wind and solar system applications may also realize significant gains.

Lots more testing and demonstrations are no doubt being planned for this technology, but this is one of the most promising battery advances to come down the road. It just might make it possible for Edison to realize his dream of an electric vehicle transportation system; and for our nation to kick the oil habit.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineEditor’s Deep Dive:

“Great ideas originate in the muscles.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

Share