Have you ever had a great idea and then later realized that you were not the first one to think of it?

Asphalt paver machine

Asphalt paver machine

When I was about four I invented a machine that would make roads. I even drew a really nice picture in crayons of what I came up with. It had a big hopper in front, and would pour the material down and spread it flat and it had big treads on the side so it could move forward building a road behind it. Some years later I was amazed as my family drove past a highway under construction, and they were using the machine that I had drawn! Something like the picture shown.

When I was in college, after studying a bit of chemistry and physics, I did some thinking about nuclear fusion. Some metals, such as palladium, can absorb large amounts of hydrogen. I reasoned that if one was to make a target of palladium and expose it to deuterium it would hold the deuterium in place. One could then use some high voltage to accelerate more deuterium ions toward it, resulting in nuclear fusion. I was thinking this would be a great way to make a power-producing fusion reactor! Then I found out that this had already been invented some decades prior. The resulting nuclear reactors are not used to generate power, but they are used in the medical field as a source of high energy neutrons.

Also while in college I gave some thought to unusual electric motor configurations. I was fascinated by the homopolar motor. I drew up an idea of a homopolar motor made with multiple windings around two co-axial magnets which were arranged with their north poles pointed in opposite directions. Some years later I found some of my old notes and drawings, and so I did some searching on the internet to try to decide if there was any way they would work. I was surprised to find that a patent had been issued in the intervening years for such a device1, and the drawings in the patent are very similar to what I had drawn some years before.

  1. Although, there being a patent does not necessarily mean that it would actually work. []

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply