Frank Shuman

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Frank Shuman in 1907

Frank Shuman (January 23, 1862 -- April 28, 1918) was an American inventor, engineer and solar energy pioneer noted for his work on solar engines, especially those that used solar energy to heat water that would produce steam. Shuman's visionary ideals, most of which were not publicly accepted until sixty years later, were evident when he made the statement, "One thing I feel sure of... is that the human race must finally utilize direct sun power or revert to barbarism."

In 1892 Frank Shuman invented wire glass safety glass.[1] Additional patents were issued relating to the process of making wire glass and machines for making wire glass. In 1914 Shuman invented a process for making laminated safety glass, called safetee glass,[2] and manufactured by the Safetee Glass Company. In 1916 he patented a "Danger Signal" for railroad crossings,[3] as well as the use of liquid oxygen or liquid air to propel a submarine.[4]

On August 20, 1897, Shuman demonstrated a solar engine that worked by reflecting solar energy onto one-foot square boxes filled with ether, which has a lower boiling point than water, and containing black pipes on the inside, which in turn powered a toy steam engine. The tiny steam engine operated continuously for over two years on sunny days next to a pond at the Shuman house.

In 1908 Shuman formed the Sun Power Company with the intent to build larger power plants. He, along with his technical advisor A.S.E. Ackermann and British physicist Sir Charles Vernon Boys,[5] developed an improved system using mirrors to reflect solar energy upon collector boxes, increasing heating capacity so much that water could now be used instead of ether. He also developed a low-pressure steam turbine, since most 1910 vintage steam engines were built for steam and not sun-heated water. Shuman's turbine processed energy four times faster than any engine of his day. Shuman then constructed a full-scale steam engine that was powered by low-pressure water, enabling him to patent the entire solar engine system by 1912. Scientific American again featured Shuman in its issues of February 4, 1911 and September 30, 1911.

Shuman built the world’s first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt (1912-1913). Shuman’s plant used parabolic troughs to power a 60-70 horsepower engine that pumped 6,000 gallons of water per minute from the Nile River to adjacent cotton fields. His system included a number of technological improvements, including absorption plates with dual panes separated by a one-inch air space. Although the outbreak of World War I and the discovery of cheap oil in the 1930s discouraged the advancement of solar energy, Shuman’s vision and basic design were resurrected in the 1970s with a new wave of interest in solar thermal energy.[6]

We have proved the commercial profit of sun power in the tropics and have more particularly proved that after our stores of oil and coal are exhausted the human race can receive unlimited power from the rays of the sun.

—Frank Shuman, New York Times, July 2, 1916[7]

His large home and laboratories still stand in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, as an apartment house and garages.

Patents[edit]

Number Date filed Issue date Description
D37803 December 18, 1905 January 30, 1906 Design for Sheet-Glass
D43349 August 19, 1910 December 17, 1912 Design for Sheet-Glass
483020 July 6, 1892 September 20, 1892 Process of Embedding Wire-Netting in Glass
483021 July 6, 1892 September 20, 1892 Machine for Embedding Wire-Netting in Glass
510716 September 22, 1893 December 12, 1893 Machine for Embedding Wire in Glass
510822 December 29, 1892 December 12, 1893 Process of Manufacturing Wire-Glass
510823 December 29, 1892 December 12, 1893 Machine for Manufacturing Wire-Glass
531874 July 5, 1894 January 1, 1895 Process of Cutting Wire-Embedded Glass
542539 November 14, 1894 July 9, 1895 Apparatus for Removing Obstructions from Car-Tracks
545826 May 3, 1894 September 3, 1895 Ladle for Dipping Glass
546196 May 28, 1894 September 10, 1895 Apparatus for Embedding Wire in Glass
561920 November 14, 1892 June 9, 1896 Machine for Embedding Wire in Glass
574458 November 23, 1893 January 5, 1897 Machine for Embedding Wire in Glass
593440 September 17, 1896 November9, 1897 Process of Treating Metal Structures
605754 January 20, 1896 June 14, 1898 Process of and Machine for Embedding Wire in Glass
647334 July 21, 1897 April 10, 1900 Process of Making Rolls
661649b July 21, 1900 November 13, 1900 Mercerizing-Machine
670438a September 20, 1900 March 26, 1901 Machine for Molding Glass
671240 October 13, 1900 April 2, 1901 Process of Extinguishing Fires
673067 September 20, 1900 April 30, 1901 Mercerizing-Machine
727004a June 14, 1902 May 5, 1903 Meshed Wire for Wire-Glass Manufacture
727005a June 14, 1902 May 5, 1903 Manufacture of Wire-Glass
727006a June 14, 1902 May 5, 1903 Method of Manufacturing Wire-Glass
727007a June 14, 1902 May 5, 1903 Process of Manufacturing Wire-Glass
733286 January 13, 1903 July 7, 1903 Removable Pile for Forming Concrete Piles
733287 April 23, 1903 July 7, 1903 Process of Making Concrete Piles
733288 January 13, 1903 July 7, 1903 Removable Pile for Forming Concrete Piling
733335 June 4, 1903 July 7, 1903 Process of Forming Openings in the Ground
733336 April 23, 1903 July 7, 1903 Process of Forming Concrete Piles
733337 April 23, 1903 July 7, 1903 Process of Forming Concrete Piles
735680 April 23, 1903 August 4, 1903 Process of Making Concrete Piles
739268 June 8, 1903 September 15, 1903 Process of Making Concrete Piles
752003 April 23, 1903 February 9, 1904 Process of Forming Concrete Piles
756805 January 13, 1903 April 5, 1904 Removable Pile for Forming Concrete Piling
763212 February 5, 1904 June 21, 1904 Preparatory Pile for Use in Forming Concrete Piles
763213 February 25, 1904 June 21, 1904 Method of Forming Concrete Piles
786058 April 7, 1904 March 28, 1905 Process of Manufacturing Wire-Glass
792172a March 20, 1905 June 13, 1905 Process of Making Wire-Glass
805936 January 9, 1905 November 28, 1905 Concrete Piling and Method for Making the Same
806755 April 21, 1904 December 5, 1905 Pile for Piers or Pier Casings
806587 April 21, 1904 December 5, 1905 Pier and Pier Casing
817595 April 21, 1904 September 18, 1906 Setting Concrete Piles
831481 July 26, 1905 April 10, 1906 Constructing Piles
875857 June 14, 1902 January 7, 1908 Method for the Manufacture of Wire-Glass
876307 June 14, 1902 January 7, 1908 Method for the Manufacture of Wire-Glass
889341 July 20, 1897 June 2, 1908 Roll and Process for Making Same
898517 May 31, 1906 September 15, 1908 Concrete Pile and the Process of Constructing the Same
899339b December 22, 1905 September 22, 1908 Extracting Grease and Potash Salts from Wool
899440b December 29, 1905 September 22, 1908 Apparatus for Extracting Grease and Potash Salts from Wool
905469a March 20, 1905 December 1, 1908 Wire-Glass Structure
957477 March 20, 1905 May 10, 1910 Method of and Means of Annealing Glass
979579 March 18, 1907 December 27, 1910 Utilizing Waste Heat of Compressors
992814 May 1, 1907 May 23, 1911 Utilizing Waste Heat of Distillation
1002768 July 20, 1907 September 5, 1911 Utilizing Heat for the Development of Power
1014418 December 13, 1907 January 9, 1912 Process for Utilizing Waste Heat of Distillation
1156186 March 7, 1906 October 12, 1915 Method of Making Composite Piles
1167944 July 20, 1909 January 11, 1916 Method of and Means for Melting Metals
1200893 January 9, 1914 October 10, 1916 Steam-Engine
1218219 March 9, 1910 March 6, 1917 Steam-Engine
1240890c September 30, 1912 September 25, 1917 Sun-Boiler
1258482 October 2, 1915 March 5, 1918 Pile Form and Method of Driving the Same
1281860 October 2, 1915 October 15, 1918 Apparatus for Forming Piles
1310253 February 25, 1916 July 15, 1919 Submarine and Method of Operating the Same
1420345 March 23, 1916 June 20, 1922 Danger Signal
a with Arno Shuman
b with Constantine Shuman
c with Charles Vernon Boys

Source:[8]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]