Megawatt Windmill

Megawatt wind turbines are windmills capable of generating a megawatt or more of electricity and feeding it into the electrical grid. Background Palmer Putnam was an MIT geologist. Literature notes he has “no formal education or experience in wind power.” Of course, that was true for everybody in the 1930s. There was no such thing […]

Audion Tube

The Audion acts as an amplifier, transforming quiet electric signals into loud ones. Background In 1906, Lee de Forest invented the “three-electrode Audion” vacuum tube. In 1906, Lee de Forest invented the “three-electrode Audion” vacuum tube. The Audion acts as an amplifier, transforming quiet electric signals into loud ones. Originally de Forest wasn’t quite sure […]

Vacuum Tube (Diode)

Working for the Edison Electrical Light Company of England, Sir John Fleming invented the diode, a vacuum tube at the heart of all early electronics. Radios, television, telephones, computers – virtually every electronic we’re familiar with today – was first built with diodes. Diodes are typically vacuum tubes, though some have specialized gasses in them. […]

Heavy-Duty DC Motor / Trolley / Subway

Faraday proved an electric motor was possible but, like his many inventions, neither scaled the idea up nor commercialized it. Voltaic piles at that time were the sole source of electricity. Because they produced little electricity high-power motors seemed pointless. Background The new field of electricity interested Sprague, a Navy officer. While serving in the […]

Dry Cell Battery

Dry cell batteries are the batteries the world is familiar with, the one’s that run portable electronics. Voltaic pile batteries, that preceded dry-cell batteries, required constant maintenance. Background To contextualize this era, the telegraph was gaining widespread adoption. However, there was no power grid to run the telegraphs at this time. The first power plant, […]

Lithium-Ion Battery

Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) power everything from smartphones to power tools and electric cars. Entire cities store power generated during the day, via solar panels, for use at night from large lithium battery arrays. One of the largest factories in the world, the Tesla Gigafactory, is devoted solely to manufacturing Lithium-Ion batteries. Background An ability to […]

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

“New York City and you’re flying in an airplane and you see all these lights. And you think lights, lights, lights, lights, lights.” Nick Holonyak Nick Holonyak Jr.’s mom was an orphan. His dad was a coal miner. After a stint in the mine’s, Nick decided school sounded like a fine idea. Holonyak was the […]

Solar Cells

Solar Cells produce electricity from sunlight. Early History In 1873 and 1874, scientists noticed that selenium reacted with light to produce electricity. During the 1870s William Adams and Richard Day proved that light plus selenium generated current. Eventually, famous German scientist Werner von Siemens (founder of Siemens) was excited about the possibility of solar cells […]

Nuclear Power

One of the great physicists, Fermi won the Nobel Prize in 1938, at the age of 37. No sooner did he receive his prize than he fled from his home in fascist Italy to New York City, taking US citizenship. Eventually, Fermi and the other nuclear scientists had convinced President Roosevelt that the Nazis could […]

Three Phase Power

One extra wire allows transmission of triple the amount of electricity via three-phase power. With three wires rather than two, electrical operators can transmit triple the electricity. “Polyphase” is another term for three-phase power. Three phase power usually transmits enormous amounts of electricity. These are the large transmission lines on tall polls. Electricity is converted […]