#1817: Flexelement

Today’s invention is a new form of element for kettles which improves heat transfer to the water and lessens the build-up of scale in hard water regions.

This takes the form of a flexible heating element which is moored at one end only.

As the water heats, so boiling occurs on the element’s moving surface, generating intensified turbulence which, in turn, promotes heat transfer.

The element will thus flap up and down, due to the convective boiling regime, cracking and shedding any scale build-up.

#1816: Ammuniturn

Today’s invention is to create a military rifle which can have a number of standard magazines inserted into a rotating housing -much like an old fashioned revolver.

Since the infantryman has to carry these anyway, he or she might as well have them located within their weapon.

As each magazine arrives at the six o’clock position, it is snapped into place and rounds can be fired from it until it’s empty.

The housing moves around until all magazines are spent and the housing is discarded -to be replaced by another one full of full magazines.

This overcomes some of the problems inherent in drum magazines -such as controlling the feed of a large number of bullets without too much inertia or jamming.

It also removes the need, when using one magazine at a time, to fumble around trying to find and clip in the next set of bullets.

#1815: Bailoon

Today’s invention is a hot air balloon which can convert to a parachute if damaged in flight.

The balloon is made of several horizontal layers zipped together.

If damage occurs, the layers below the tear can be unzipped by pulling on one of a number of wires from the gondola (assuming that the tear hasn’t happened too high in the envelope).

This allows the remaining part of the balloon to stay inflated, albeit with increasingly cool air, and act as a parachute.

It also opens a small aperture at the apex to provide more stable descent.

#1814: Rampmap

Today’s invention is based on people in wheelchairs carrying with them smartphones which can record or transmit their location.

These data would reflect, over time, those routes and destinations that enabled wheelchair access and could be overlaid onto eg Google StreetView (especially future versions which map the interiors of public buildings).

Areas which failed to be mapped would highlight regions from which wheelchair users were possibly being excluded.

#1813: LugLag

It seems that shining a bright light into someone’s ears can alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. There are light sensitive cells inside the head which react to changes in illumination, apparently.

Today’s invention uses this discovery to help overcome jetlag.

A pair of sunglasses has a daylight-frequencies lamp located on each of the legs. These are mounted in earphone-like cans, so that the effects of ambient light level changes can be excluded by positioning the cans over the ears.

The light levels emitted by the lamps are gradually varied during a long flight so that the body is fooled into arriving at the destination already attuned to local time.

Shock news: patent agents like patents

I recently read yet another advert-dressed-up-as-a-letter by a patent attorney in the IET’s E&T magazine.

I’m a member of the IET, so it galls me that
a) they aren’t banging the drum in support of restricted access to the title Engineer.

b) they continue to publish articles talking about the need to ‘recruit’ over two million new engineers by 2017. No chance, at current fee rates…and they mostly mean technicians anyway.

c) the magazine, and the profession, uncritically accept that patents offer a way for inventors to make money from ideas.

Anyway, here is my ranting response:

Patently obvious

Fraser Brown writes to defend ‘our’ patents system. It is not surprising that, as a patent attorney, he regards it as both fair and fit for purpose. Those of us who have ideas know better. Only established companies can even begin to consider paying the costs associated with hiring members of Mr Brown’s profession. Lone inventors are almost completely excluded from the benefits he mentions.

It’s nonsense to suggest that it’s even possible for the UK’s most inventive people to ‘take on the big boys’ via patents. Leaving aside drafting costs, we simply can’t afford policing or litigation. In practice, and in the absence of rich friends, the only way is to form an alliance with a corporate and tolerate the comparatively poor deals that that entails (if you can even find one that will listen). Otherwise, UK inventors have to use their creativity to skirt around existing patents or spot opportunities for quick sales of uncontended product ideas.

Patrick Andrews CEng

#1812: ArcBars

Today’s invention is bicycle handlebars which can be reconfigured into many different styles.

The front forks are made of tubes in circular arcs. Other tubes are fitted telescopically inside these.

The interior ones can be pulled out almost completely, twisted through an angle and locked in place.

This allows, for example, a more upright riding position (A) or a much more aggressive racing pose (B) -as well as almost any other arrangement in between.

#1811: N2end

A friend recently reminded me about the Kamm back aerodynamic design for road vehicles.

I have also been reading about the genius who has invented a car engine which runs on liquid nitrogen.

Today’s invention is a related approach.

A vehicle has a tank of liquid nitrogen aboard. In order to boost the ‘air’ pressure at the rear of the vehicle, and cut the form drag radically, it continuously releases some of the nitrogen into the space which would otherwise be a low-pressure, fuel-wasting vortex.

#1810: Wavetrain

I’ve had some thoughts before about ways in which (dangerous) level crossings might be eliminated.

Today’s invention is in the same mould.

It consists of a train the carriages of which are joined by a hinge which can be moved from the base to the roof (pink dots).

The hinges are powered so that carriages can exert torque on each other.

As the train approaches a level crossing where a conventional vehicle is crossing (grey), so the train arches up and over the crossing as a bridge-shaped wave passes backwards through the train.