Frank Shuman (//; January 23, 1862 – April 28, 1918) was an American inventor, engineer and solar energy pioneer known for his work on solar engines, especially those that used solar energy to heat water that would produce steam.
In 1892 Frank Shuman invented wire glass safety glass. 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 safety glass, and manufactured by the Safety Glass Company. In 1916 he patented a "Danger Signal" for railroad crossings, as well as the use of liquid oxygen or liquid air to propel a submarine.
On August 20, 1897, Shuman invented 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 Shine 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, 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 semi circle shaped 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.
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
His large home and laboratories still stand in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, as an apartment house and garages. They were added to the historic register in October 2019, meaning they cannot be demolished or significantly altered without the Historical Commission's permission.
|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||November 9, 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
- Patent number: 483021
- "From troughs to triumph: SEGS and gas". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- Patent number: 1420345
- Patent number: 1310253
- Smith, Zachary Alden; Taylor, Katrina D. (2008). Renewable and alternative energy resources: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-59884-089-6.
- American Inventor Uses Egypt's Sun for Power; Appliance Concentrates the Heat Rays and Produces Steam, Which Can Be Used to Drive Irrigation Pumps in Hot Climates
- Tomczuk, Jack (2019-10-30). "Tacony pioneer's house, lab gets historic protection". Northeast Times. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
- Kryza, Frank T. (2003). The Power of Light. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-140021-4. This book describes Shuman's solar project in Egypt.
- Butti, Ken (1980). Golden Thread Twenty Five Hundred Years of Solar Architecture and Technology. Cheshire Books. ISBN 0917352076. This book describes Shuman's work in solar power in both the US and Egypt. Includes photos.