The Speculist: The Fundamental Building Block


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The Fundamental Building Block

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the invention that made it all possible. A tremendous technological leap forward in its own right -- perhaps one of the clearest points of demarcation between the the technology of the 20th and 21st centuries -- this device showcased the kind of fundamental rethinking that we casually refer to as discontinuous change. It was the very epitome of the "paradigm shift" described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

And yet this invention, as critical a breakthrough as it was, proves to be only a stepping stone, a building block for something even bigger: a major step forward in how we can capture and use solar energy.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's have a look at the original, all-important breakthrough technology...


...and now here's some information on the new breakthrough:

Solar energy technology is enjoying its day in the sun with the advent of innovations from flexible photovoltaic (PV) materials to thermal power plants that concentrate the sun’s heat to drive turbines. But even the best system converts only about 30 percent of received solar energy into electricity—making solar more expensive than burning coal or oil. That will change if Lonnie Johnson’s invention works. The Atlanta-based independent inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun (a true technological milestone) says he can achieve a conversion efficiency rate that tops 60 percent with a new solid-state heat engine. It represents a breakthrough new way to turn heat into power.

Johnson, a nuclear engineer who holds more than 100 patents, calls his invention the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System, or JTEC for short. This is not PV technology, in which semiconducting silicon converts light into electricity. And unlike a Stirling engine, in which pistons are powered by the expansion and compression of a contained gas, there are no moving parts in the JTEC. It’s sort of like a fuel cell: JTEC circulates hydrogen between two membrane-electrode assemblies (MEA). Unlike a fuel cell, however, JTEC is a closed system. No external hydrogen source. No oxygen input. No wastewater output. Other than a jolt of electricity that acts like the ignition spark in an internal-combustion engine, the only input is heat.

We are seeing so many developments in solar power production these days that it's difficult to keep up with them all. Not all of them will pan out, of course, but this one comes with quite a pedigree

Via InstaPundit.


I think this one's all wet...


This is like the 4th different potential solar breakthrough we've written up in three months. It seems like we've reached some inventive critical mass.

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