Einstein's Refrigerator - A Forgotten Invention and Green Comeback
An Inventor Working With Patents
Albert Einstein worked as a clerk in a patent office in his earliest career and was well informed about the procedures of invention and patenting. In 1926, he patented his own invention, in addition to formulating and developing theories in physics and winning a Nobel Prize.
After graduating from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and unable to find a teaching position, Einstein found work as an assistant patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Office. This heped groom him for future research in physics, because he reviewed numerous patent applications for electromagnetic devices.
Albert Einstein later invented and patented a refrigerator and several models between 1926 and 1933.
U.S. Patent Number 1,781,541
The Einstein Refrigerator was patented through the United States Patent Office on November 11, 1930; in partnership with Einstein's inventive partner and former student, Mr. Leo Szilard.
The refrigerator was a unit that acted as an absorption refrigerator and had no moving parts. It was very simple and effective. The refrigeration device required only a simplistic heat source for its operation to proceed quickly and smoothly. It did not even need electricity! The heat source could be a small gas burner like that available even in poor villages and the refrigerator was useful in the outdoors as well -- no motors, no plugs. You'd heat up one end of the device and the other end became cold. it was like magic.
This invention was practical in that it 1) provided refrigeration simply and cheaply and 2) provided income that supported Einstein as he researched his more vital projects and theories.
In 2008, an Oxford University scientist attempted to revive the Einstein Refrigerator as a type of green replacement for electrical units.
Mr. Malcolm McCulloch is an electrical engineer at Oxford. He feels that Szilard's and Einstein's refrigeration design was environmentally friendly as well as useful in developing countries that need cooling appliances while maintaining sustainability.
In the autumn of 2008, McCulloch and a research team completed a prototype that uses pressurized gas to keep food or other items cold. The refrigerator requires a source with which to heat liquids in its design, and McCulloch feels a solar energy system will become even more "green" than the small gas burner Einstein used. The refrigerator will run on sunlight and a little butane.
A scientist at Georgia Tech is also developing a take on Einstein;s refrigerator, one that uses ammonia, water, and butane. This scientist is a mechanical engineer, Andy Delano. He learned that Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard invented not one, but several models of the Einstein Refrigerator between 1926 and 1933, a period of 7 years. Einstein was an inventor, then, for at least 7 years, accumulating 45 patents in all.
Mr. Delano has accrued patents as well form his related work, all of which have been sold to AB Electrolux in Sweden, famous for refrigeration.
Einstein and Szilard read newspaper columns about a Berlin family that died when a seal in their refrigerator burst and leaked toxic fumes into their house. A device without moving parts would prevent such a hazard and Einstein and Szilard pursued practical applications for refrigeration in order to make it safer, cheaper, and quick for the individual user; and to provide some income for themselves to support their other work. Einstein was already famous for his Theory of Relativity, and Szilard was already employed as a graduate assistant at the University of Berlin. The additional income furthered their physics research.
NOTE for time travelers and enthusiasts:
A division of NASA, the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, has worked on the question of breaking the speed of light/time barrier for several years. Research there and in other facilities has thus far shown that the speed of light can increase.
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