Thomas Edison on Failure

The MOOCS are Coming, The MOOCS are Coming!So how do you take failure? Do you simply move onto something else, or do you double-down and take another cut at the challenge that just floored you? Do you have a rep at work or with friends that characterizes you as someone who never gives up?

Thomas Edison was fond of saying … “I can never find the things that work best until I know the things that don’t work.”

That “Edisonian” style of stubborn perseverance is often the hallmark of successful inventors and entrepreneurs … people who change the world. When searching for the right, long-life filament for his nascent electric light bulb technology, legend has it the great inventor tried several thousand different materials, before he found the right one.

“Results! Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.”

Remember this important fact. During Edison’s career, he filled 4,000 laboratory notebooks-about 3200 of them were the large ledger type volumes and 800 were small notebooks. This is the kind of man who carefully documented and constantly re-visited his notes to look for places for improvement- always learning from failure.

While perfecting his famous nickel-iron storage batteries, he is said to have quipped to a reporter’s admonishment on his lack of success …

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Undaunted, Thomas Edison went on to develop a legendary battery that was used in many applications the world over; in fact, it was probably his most profitable product.

At the Edison Foundations we find great guidance in Edison’s work ethic and never give-up attitude. This valuable advice came early in life from his mother, Nancy Elliot Edison, who home-schooled the young boy.

We have coined our own version of Mr. Edison’s spirit, “Fail your way to success!”

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

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Thomas Edison Quotes on Hard Work

Thomas Edison Quotes on Hard WorkSo, you are working hard, spending lots of time at work or a special project … maybe 50-60 hours a week? Thomas Edison would admire your work ethic. He would have said something like:

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits”

Old Tom was a devotee of hard work, often logging over 90 hours a week in his office and labs, punching the time clock just like everyone else-also catching a quick nap when he could to refresh himself.

Here is a quote that characterizes how Tom thought about work:

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

He was all about what you could do with what you had learned … not how smart folks thought you were. For Edison:

“Genius is hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.”

The world of Mr. Edison was all about practicality in action.

Thomas Edison Quotes on Hard Work

He did not care for quitters either:

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

Think about this. He was purported to have conducted over 3,000 experiments to perfect his light bulb filament; and over 15,000 experiments to get his nickel-iron storage batteries right. How many people do you know who have this kind of work discipline? Do you?

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “There is a way to do it better. Find it.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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Nanotechnology Energizes Solar Panels

Something very small [nanotechnology] is happening in the world of solar panels, but it promises big changes. It cuts to the heart of solar panel engineering, and the big dream solar aficionados have harbored for decades……thin film technology that is both cost effective and practical.

With nano-solar technology, the panels themselves change as well, their manufacturing becoming more like a film making process than adhering silicon-like materials to glass substrates. The use of customized nano particles has the ability to make the cells better able to capture incoming solar radiation, thereby increasing panel efficiency; and also enabling a cheaper manufacturing process. To give you a sense of the scale, a nanometer is equal to 1 billionth of a meter.

Konarka

Check out a photo below of Konarka’s, plastic, organic, thin film material, and visit them to see their typical product performance spec sheet. Konarka Technologies is located in Lowell Massachusetts, and was originally founded in 2001 by a team of researchers at UMass at Lowell, including Mr. Howard Berke, who now serves as Konarka’s Chairman and CEO.

Nanosolar, is now marketing their nanosolar panels, boasting a 15% panel efficiency. On a thin piece of aluminium, the company adds a nanoparticle ink, at a rate of printing 100 feet of solar cells a minute. They can produce panels [containing many solar cells] for 60 cents per watt, retailing them for about $1.00 a watt when production is full-scale. A fully installed Nanosolar panel system would cost about $2.50 a watt, much lower than the $6-8 a watt today with conventional solar panels. You can see an interesting video of their panel making operation and also via this photo below.

Nanosolar Scientist at Work

Nanosolar was founded in 2002, recently benefiting in 2010 from a revamped team of management talent with experience in growing technology companies into potent billion dollar organizations. The new team is headed by Mr. Geoff Tate, Chairman and CEO, and located in San Jose, CA.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory has teamed up with Microcontinuum Inc. and the University of Missouri to develop a very interesting nanoantenna which can capture up to 80% of the sun’s mid-infrared rays. Spiral nanoantennas, 1/25th the width of a human hair, do the work. These little babies can also harvest energy after the sun goes down! See photo below, and check out this website and fascinating video. Since these arrays absorb infrared radiation, they also absorb the sun’s infrared energy reradiated by the earth after dark. Similarly, they also take in heat from industrial processes. This opens up a whole series of applications for absorbing waste heat and reradiating it as electricity, effectively cooling buildings, computers, equipment, etc. … without air conditioning. This could be revolutionary in just a few more years. From tiny nanotechnology, big new applications grow.

 From tiny nanotechnology, big new applications grow

Microcontinuum was originally founded in 1998 by a former team of Polaroid scientists and engineers. Dr. W. Dennis Slafer is currently  President and CFO, Cambridge, MA.

New Energy Technologies, Inc. says it’s come up with a patent-pending method of spraying windows with a nano-thin photovoltaic material. The spray is an organic semitransparent material that converts sunlight to electricity. Using this technology the company will produce its SolarWindows, equipped with a nano film 1/1,000th the thickness of a human hair. Researchers found that its super small solar cells can harness more artificial light than other solar cells “under normal office lighting conditions, without the benefit of outside natural light from windows.” Check them out!

Mr. John A. Conklin is President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, located in Columbia, MD.

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison was a big fan of solar energy … “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.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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