Continuations of Innovation: A Salute
Innovation never sleeps. Creativity can arrive in a single spark, but it’s just as often a continuous kinetic chain – ideas exploding from single eureka! moments and slow burns of technological development that can leap across minds and generations.
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It’s in this innovative spirit that we salute some of the most important and interesting technologies that have mushroomed into difference-making and market-shaking movements:
Refrigeration. You still haven’t forgiven Helen in accounting for stealing your yogurt from the break room, but let’s stop for a moment to appreciate the technology that kept your Chobani from going bad in the first place. In 1940, Frederick McKinley Jones patented the first air-cooling unit for perishable-food transport trucks, and he would go on to found the influential Thermo King Corporation. Not only do food distributors, the entire restaurant industry and an army of foodies owe Jones a debt of gratitude, the inventors’ contributions even helped turn away a fascist regime: Jones’ portable refrigeration units helped preserve blood, medicine and food for the United States during World War II.
Lithium-ion batteries. It wasn’t long ago that the power sources for everything from children’s toys to garage door openers were inefficient, landfill-choking, single-use alkaline batteries. But, following up on the initial work of Exxon chemist Stanley Whittingham in the 1970s, Sony released the first commercial lithium-ion battery in 1991. With containment, cost and safety concerns having been sufficiently addressed, the new power cell offered a key advantage over its predecessors: it was rechargeable. The technology was a crucial factor in launching the mobile phone industry, and today a noted tinkerer named Elon Musk continues to refine the lithium tech for pioneering electric car maker Tesla. Of course, POW uses lithium-ion batteries in our rechargeable speakers, as well.
Cyclonic separation. By now, you’ve undoubtedly seen James Dyson on TV extolling the merits of “sook-shun.” But the technology that represents the beating heart of the products made by Dyson Ltd – the gadgets that create all that suction – has been around since the 19th century, when the Knickerbocker Company filed a patent on its cyclonic separator. Modeled after the patterns of weather cyclones, it was created to collect dangerous dust in factories and mills. Dyson would later retro-fit it to smaller devices, which led to its creating the first bagless vacuum. Now you can find the tech in hair dryers and air purifiers, and seemingly every vacuum maker in the land builds a model that hunts dust bunnies with the power of tiny tornadoes.
3D printing. Building parts and materials for purposes as far-ranging as aerospace and dentistry has never been easier, more cost-effective or more widely available than right now. As 3D printing technology has advanced, smaller and cheaper devices have hit the mass market and sparked exponentially greater innovation. One company builds houses up to 2,000 square feet and had begun building an entire neighborhood of affordable 3D-printed homes for families living on less than $200 per month. The tech has matured to the point that researchers are printing “skin” with working blood vessels from bio ink that could replace painful, problematic skin grafts.
Keep your mind open and hungry, and perhaps you have the next world-changing innovation in your hands. Have an idea you want to share with us? Let’s us know, we’d love to hear from you!