Saturday, January 31, 2009

Drinking Straws...

In 1888, Marvin Stone patented the spiral winding process to manufacture the first paper drinking straws. Stone was already a manufacturer of paper cigarette holders. His idea was to make paper drinking straws. Before his straws, beverage drinkers were using the natural rye grass straws.

Stone made his prototype straw by winding strips of paper around a pencil and gluing it together. He then experimented with paraffin-coated manila paper, so the straws would not become soggy while someone was drinking. Marvin Stone decided the ideal straw was 8 1/2-inches long with a diameter just wide enough to prevent things like lemon seeds from being lodged in the tube.

The product was patented on January the 3rd, 1888. By 1890, his factory was producing more straws than cigarette holders. In 1906, the first machine was invented by the Stone's "Stone Straw Corporation" to machine-wind straws, ending the hand-winding process. Later other kinds of spiral-wound paper and non-paper products were made.

In 1928, electrical engineers began to use spiral-wound tubes in the first mass produced radios. All made by the same process invented by Stone. Spiral-wound tubing is now found everywhere -- in electric motors, electrical apparatus, electronic devices, electronic components, aerospace, textile, automotive, fuses, batteries, transformers, pyrotechnics, medical packaging, product protection, and packaging applications.

Can openers invented 48 years after cans

Cans were opened with a hammer and chisel before the advent of can openers. The tin cannister, or can, was invented in 1810 by a Londoner, Peter Durand. The year before, French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, had introduced the method of canning food (as it became known) by sealing the food tightly inside a glass bottle or jar and then heating it. He could not explain why the food stayed fresh but his bright idea won him the 12,000-francs prize that Napoleon offered in 1795 for preserving food. Durand supplied the Royal Navy with canned heat-preserved food while Appert would help Napoleon's army march on its stomach.

Tin canning was not widely adopted until 1846, when a method was invented to increase can production from 6 in an hour to 60. Still, there were no can openers yet and the products labels would read: "cut around on the top near to outer edge with a chisel and hammer."

The can opener was invented in 1858 by American Ezra Warnet. There also is a claim that Englishman Robert Yeates invented the can opener in 1855. But the can opener did not become popular until, ten years later, it was given away for free with canned beef.

The well-known wheel-style opener was invented in 1925. Beer in a can was launched in 1935. The easy-open can lid was invented by Ermal Cleon Fraze in 1959.

Since 1972, some 64 million tons of aluminum cans (about 3 trillion cans) have been produced. Placed end-to-end, they could stretch to the moon about a thousand times. Still, cans represent less than 1% of solid waste material - about one quarter of all cans are recycled. Worldwide, some 9 million cans are recycled every hour. Which is good news, considering that it takes a can about 200 years to degrade if you bury it. It takes paper about a month to bio-degrade, a woolen sock about a year, and plastic hundreds of years.

Recycling cans saves 95% of the energy required to make aluminum from ore, or the equivalent of 18 million barrels of oil, or 10.8 billion kilowatt hours.

Used aluminum cans that are recycled return to store shelves within 60 days.

Canned petfood was introduced by James Spratt in 1865.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From toothpaste to solar energy


From toothpaste to solar energy
By Abigail Klein-Leichman January 13, 2009

While searching for an ingredient to make toothpaste flow more easily, an Israeli chemist came across a novel way to produce inexpensive, clean solar energy. 3GSolar, the company born of that serendipitous discovery, is now poised to light up the developing world.

"There are maybe a billion and a half people living without electricity," Dr. Jonathan Goldstein, the British-born inventor and battery scientist who founded 3GSolar in Jerusalem in 2003. "Many governments of developing countries are keen on bringing people forward to improve their living standards."

Goldstein's deceptively simple solution is set to revolutionize dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) technology, invented in 1988 by Swiss scientist Michael Graetzel. The cells are photovoltaic (PV), meaning they convert radiant energy - such as sunlight -- into electricity with the help of a layer of semiconductor.

"As a battery scientist, I saw why nothing commercial had come out of the invention: Cells were tiny and nobody knew how to scale them up to be something practical," Goldstein tells ISRAEL21c.

He knew that if he were able to make a larger DSC, it could be a cheaper and more available alternative to silicon, the relatively expensive and scarce semiconductor currently used in most solar-energy panels. Silicon solar panels are also costly to produce.

Here's where the toothpaste tinkering came in handy. Goldstein had invented a toothbrush with toothpaste preloaded in its handle. In looking for ways to ease the flow of paste to brush, he learned about a cheap white powder called titanium dioxide - and discovered that it not only solved his toothpaste problem but also had a track record in DSC technology. If treated with an absorbable dye, titanium dioxide becomes sensitive to light.

"You can easily screen-print thin layers of titanium dioxide on surfaces and churn out plates of this material and then oven-bake the layer on firmly - it can even be baked on in the air, with no need for expensive equipment," he explains.

Extracting generated current

Goldstein's low-cost current collector enabled building tablemat-sized cells and extracting the generated current.

Initially, 3G was funded by an Israeli government incubator program. In its second year, it caught the attention of New York-based venture-capital fund 21 Ventures. With a staff of 18 scientists working on the project, the concept quickly took shape.

"We're on schedule for pilot production in early 2009, with initial plant production in Israel in 2010," says Goldstein, adding that 3GSolar is on track to be the first PV manufacturer in Israel. It is also soon to become the first Israeli company on the Toronto stock exchange.

Government officials in Senegal and India are eagerly awaiting the first panels. "There is a lot of interest because PV is clean energy and it's always there on the roof if you get a blackout," says Goldstein. "People like to have that security."

He has an ambitious yet prudent business plan. "We will build ourselves up slowly within those [developing] markets and then move to industrialized countries in our second generation," he says. "These countries may buy just one or two panels per family -- not for air conditioning, but for the basic needs of someone who might have electric light in his home for the first time."

The glass-based titanium-dioxide-treated panels are expected to debut at half the cost of similarly sized silicon panels. "We believe as we make more plants, that will drive our cost down even more," says Goldstein.

He envisions maintaining a plant, and R&D facility in Israel, as well as licensing the technology to countries that will be using the panels. "The manufacturing plants can be put in anywhere because all you need is a screen-printing machine and some sort of oven," he explains.