Offshore Oil Drill

Offshore Drilling Units allow drilling for oil underwater. History Early patents describe over-water drilling wells that never worked. Thomas Rowland filed an 1869 patent for a “submarine drilling apparatus.” There are limited records showing submerged oil wells in 1891, in Grand Lake in Ohio. However, it wasn’t until 1894 that offshore exploration started in earnest. […]

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 […]

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 […]

Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters prevent knocking in engines without leaded fuel. Houdry was a Frenchman working on high-octane fuels. His initial focus were race cars. Sun Oil sponsored the early work, in the 1930’s, moving Houdry to the US. The fuel work was a success but could not be use in mass production because the catalysts that […]

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 […]

Better Oil Drill Bit (Tricone Rotary Rock Drill)

A drill bit sounds relatively petty compared to the other inventions on this list. Granted, it’s not Watt’s condensing steam engine, Edison’s long-lasting lightbulb, Tesla’s induction motor or the Wright Brothers airplane. But Hughes drill bit dramatically lowered the cost of drilling for oil. It also opened previously unavailable oil fields where oil reserves lay […]

Steam Turbine

In much the same way that Watt’s condensing steam engine vastly increased the value of Newcomen’s engine, the steam turbine vastly improved the value of Edison’s electric factory. Steam turbines allow steam, generated by heating water, to efficiently turn generators, usually to make electricity. In addition to steam, water (ex: waterfalls) or wind (ex: windmills) […]

Long Lasting Light Bulb

Edison’s bulb is well-known but what’s less understood is the enormous infrastructure required to power it. Edison created a power plant in New York City, power cables, transformers, power meters, insulators. When the lights finally came on, at the New York Times building, it represented the end of a herculean undertaking and the beginning of […]