Probably the greatest inventor in US history (ignoring Thomas Edison, whose 1,000 + patents mostly reflected the labor of other people) was one Alvin Marks. Dr. Marks passed away a few years ago with about 120 patents, which I’m pretty sure reflected his own, personal work. (Only part of his patents and career were concerned with solar energy.) My understanding is that most engineers never secure a single patent. An engineer who, in his/her lifetime, accumulates 10 patents is very successful.

Dr. Marks, as I’ve written elsewhere, had powerful foes who didn’t seem interested in making Dr. Marks’ solar energy dreams a reality. Just the opposite. Those foes included not just “other companies”, but even “our own government”*.

Unbeknownst to me, my brother recently contacted Gerard Aitken IV, who had been adopted by Dr. Marks after his biological father, Jamie Aitken, passed away. (They were best friends.) Gerard IV’s mother is Molly Aitken, who had previously been married to Dr. Marks. Mr. Aitken had joined the effort to bring Dr. Marks’ vision to reality. This cost him dearly – he was beat up in Europe, doubtless compliments of “other companies”, and that led to his early demise.

Oh, yeah. Lumeloid was expected to be 70-85% efficient, and be very cheap to manufacture. (I put “35%” in the title because of a web page re Lumeloid I found recently, but can’t find, again.)

Alas, not everybody in the Marks and Aitkens clans actually cared about Lumeloid, making the technology free for the 3rd world, etc., and I have to wonder if the biggest financial problems weren’t, in fact, not due to oil interests, but from the, ahem, less idealist members of the families.

There were quite a few uncomplimentary details about some family members, but I don’t have permission to quote the emails, and feel reluctant to do so, anyway.

Suffice it to say that I believe the story will be publicly told, some day, and Gerard Aitken IV did his fathers proud. He made promises to both his fathers, paid dearly to keep those promises, and now Lumeloid, even though it’s now a public patent, is on track to have a working prototype by the end of the year.

After receiving the initial email response, via cc, I googled around for more info. Alas, now I can’t find this link. However, I did find this, about Energy Materials Corporation (which had been mentioned by Gerard IV):

About Energy Materials Corporation
Energy Materials Corporation is an early stage company developing photovoltaic materials, based on polymer rectenna technology, with theoretical conversion efficiencies >85% and costs at pennies per Watt.

“Pennies per watt” is kind of vague, but if that comes out to be, say, 15 cents per watt, then it would take solar from being the most expensive (in China) form of energy (according to Exhibit 22, $1.00 per watt) down to the cheapest. (I don’t know what the prices are in the US, but I assume they’re similar.) It’s the relative inexpensiveness of coal which is (partly) driving the large coal-fired building programs in China and India.

I can’t believe that this would suffice for urban areas, manufacturing plants, and desalinization plants – you’ll still need a DENSE form of energy (like aneutronic fusion, or so-called cold fusion). But for rural and suburban areas, if you solve the energy storage problem, you might be able to make solar energy the main source for households (that have a high roof-area-to-volume-ratio).

My cousin, an architect, shocked me when she told me that there are homes she has worked on in Connecticut that are purely solar powered. (I had always assumed such homes would only be possible in the South.) They don’t rely just on photovoltaics, but also use some sort of liquid heating system, where the liquid is warmed via sunlight hitting the roof. I don’t know any details of how they solve their energy storage problem.

Finally, I’d like to close this diary with a quote that Gerard says Alvin Marks “would always say and that he lived by”.

DO RIGHT
HARM NO ONE
BE CREATIVE
AND LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE THAN YOU CAME INTO IT

* remember that as you get a carbon tax duplicitously shoved down your throat