#1402: Hybridrill

Powertools seem to be either cordless (with unwieldy batteries) or plugged into the mains.

Today’s invention is a drill (or whatever) which makes use of the fact that most jobs don’t benefit much from being free from a powercord.

It consists of a power lead with a small cordless battery on the end. This plugs into the tool during normal usage (when the battery is also being charged).

When the need arises, the cord can be detached leaving the small (and therefore light) battery available to drive the device for the short time necessary.

#1400: Flashare

When people take photographs using their cellphones eg at a concert, those cameras on board which have flashguns greatly deplete battery reserves because the cameras work independently.

Today’s invention is a way for such cellphone cameras to cooperate and share their flash illumination, so that everyone has enough light to take their shot.

When many people are poised to take a photo at the same venue, with their fingers on the shutter release at the same time, their cellphones could communicate this fact and calculate how much flash energy should be supplied in total. This would then allow the devices to share the load and individually produce only a small amount of light.

A more advanced version of this could, using GPS, take the relative positions and even orientations into account to create a well lit scene from almost all shooting positions.

#1317: CooLid

Laptops habitually overheat.

Today’s invention is an attempt to lessen that problem by embedding the processor in the lid, behind the screen.

The lid would have holes in the front and back surface, enabling natural convention cooling of the interior (rather than relying on noisy fans in a horizontal box, as is the usual approach).

Obviously there would be some need to ensure that the machine remained balanced with a lighter than usual keyboard and a heavier upright screen.

#1315: LabourHarbour

I’ve been talking to some engineers this week who design harbours. There is a fashion for vaguely annular ones, apparently, among the super-rich.

When they have walls (ie they aren’t just jetties), wave action is intensified within them (acting as lenses) and the boats on the inside end up crashing up and down on 10m waves.

Today’s invention is to make use of this by designing a harbour which can accommodate larger vessels. This would have a conical underwater base into which debris from the ships would fall after waves had smashed them together for a few days. The cone could be dragged onshore using a winch and the contents reprocessed to smaller scales.

The noise would be dreadful, but this would eventually reduce even ships to fragments in a lower cost way than having people with blowtorches do the job in months.

#1293: BikeBubble

Another one I can’t seem to find in the great book of patents granted…

Today’s invention is a transparent, inflatable weather cover for a motorcycle (or other small, open vehicle (as a former winter biker, I remember how cold you can become, long before the conditions get too icy to ride).

This would take the form of a collection of connected bladders made of paddling pool material and wrapped around the bike (with a zipped access port for the rider to get on board). There would be a plexiglass screen at the front, attached to the bike, just for better forward visibility.

The cover would be inflated (hard enough to avoid buffeting at speed) by a small, motor-driven air pump (which could be used for the tyres as well). There might be vents at the front, for an air cooled engine, but it would work better as a cover-all for oil cooled machines.

When the bad weather abates, the pump would be run in reverse to ‘vacuum-pack’ the bladders tightly against the machine.

#1289: Prelasticity

When you drop a rubber ball on a hard surface it bounces to only a fraction of its starting height.

Today’s invention is a novelty device which overcomes that limit, by storing extra energy in a hidden, internal spring.

The ball is first squeezed, compressing the spring between the two hinged calipers which then lock ends together.

When the ball is dropped, the impact disengages the caliper ends allowing them to fly apart, react against the floor and provide an added upwards fling to the ball -beyond the bounce supplied by the rubber outer material.

(It may be that a version of this approach could be used to provide eg reactive armour for sports players and cyclists).

#1285: Verturbine

Vertical wind turbines suffer from the problem that their blades cause a huge amount of drag when rotating around into the wind. Today’s invention aims to overcome that.

A (blue) platform carries a fin and is free to rotate into the wind like a weathercock. On this platform stands a vertical cylinder with a semicylindrical blade attached via a springloaded hinge (shown in red).

The wind, blowing from the bottom half of the diagram, rotates the cylinder anticlockwise about its axis on the platform (A). Rollers attached to the platform then close the blade, removing its drag component and compressing the sprung hinge (B).

Inertia carries the cylinder around until the blade is released for another cycle (C). More blades of course would be better.

#1269: BitStop

Thinking about electric vehicles and mechanisms for swapping batteries, the idea took off in my head that existing methods of supplying fuels to vehicles are fairly primitive.

Instead of pumping petroleum-type fuel as a continuous stream, why not provide it in discrete units?

Today’s invention is a vending machine for standard-sized jerrycans of fuel. Users can find these located on the edge of town. They roll up, exchange a used can for a new one using their credit card inserted in a slot in the machine. (If their current can isn’t quite empty, they get a credit for the weighed remains, which are automatically pooled within in the machine to fill other cans. These amounts eventually amount to a whole ‘free’ unit of fuel).

The can is then stabbed into a connector on board their vehicle. The refuelling time could be under one minute. Once a week, say, a van arrives and replaces a whole machine with one full of new cans.

This has the added benefit that the fuel is kept sealed away from people. It’s also available in smaller, safer amounts, supported by many fewer staff, more locally and with less high-street queueing/disruption.

#1262: SignalSip

Energy drinks apparently start to help one’s muscles work as soon as they make contact with the tongue.

That weird finding, via which the receptors of the tongue somehow inform one’s flagging muscles that ‘help is coming’, is the basis of today’s invention.

For those who find their lives threatened by exhaustion (such as soldiers, explorers or firefighters) it takes the form of a steel water bottle with a lockable lid (and an inaccessible, recessed valve).

The lid contains a timer device which opens a spout for say one second every half-hour (as determined for the operation concerned). This allows someone to take very short slurps of the sugar water inside, enabling them to keep going whilst preventing them from simply draining the contents.

It might even be possible for a version of the bottle to open the spout in response to radio signals from base, in order to maximise the chance that the bottle carrier can get him/herself back home in one piece.

#1252: LayerLogs

Getting a fireplace to light up can be a challenge. Somehow there is never enough of the different constituents (ie various grades of kindling) and I end up using 20 matches attempting, fruitlessly, to get the bark on a solid log to burn.

Today’s invention is therefore fire briquettes which each consist of a solid wood upper surface and a series of other strata of decreasing density. The lowermost layer would be loosely-bonded paper.

A machine could be devised to make these in bulk. This would take the form of a rectangular metal box into which pieces of wood could be dropped, followed by twigs, cardboard and then paper. Slots in the box would allow the contents to be tied in a layered bundle which could then be sawn into stove-sized lengths.

Place several of these at angles to one another in a fireplace and light the papery underside of each…instant conflagration.