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Siemens Boosts Number of Inventions by Ten Percent

Siemens employees are more inventive than ever: In fiscal year 2011 the company increased its number of invention applications by ten percent compared to the previous year*, to 8,600.

That’s just under 40 inventions per work day. The number of invention applications per employee in research and development (currently 27,800) has doubled since 2001. The total number of patents granted increased from 51,300 in the previous year to 53,300.

Siemens CEO Peter Löscher has now announced that research expenditures in the current 2012 fiscal year are being increased by €500 million. In 2011, Siemens invested €3.9 billion in R&D. At an awards ceremony in Munich on November 22, Siemens CEO Peter Löscher honored 12 particularly successful researchers and developers as “Inventors of the Year.”

*on a continuing basis (not including Osram and Siemens IT Solutions and

Sea Water to Drinking Water

Li-Shiang Liang of Lowell, Massachusetts, has developed a process for desalination of seawater that requires far less energy than has been the case with methods used in the past. He combined two technologies of continuous electrodeionization — CEDI for short, which is used to produce extremely pure water for industrial use —and electrodialysis (ED). A pilot plant using the process has been in operation since 2010. It consumes just under 1.5 kilowatt hours per cubic meter of water (kWh/m3) — less than half the energy consumption of reverse osmosis (4 kWh/m3), the most economical process to date, and 85 percent less than seawater distillation processes (10 kWh/m3). The clever part is that Liang and his colleagues succeeded in eliminating old weak points in the design of ED facilities and in developing new membranes for high salt burdens. The seawater first flows through three electrodialysis modules, reducing the salt content to less than one percent. Further desalinating the water using the ED process would require a disproportionate energy input, so it then flows through a CEDI module with membranes that turn the seawater into drinking water. Plans call for further demonstration units to be set up in the U.S. and the Caribbean by mid-2012. These units are meant to show that the technique will work at any location, despite sharp regional differences in seawater salt content. Liang has registered 62 inventions, which have led to the granting of 84 individual patents and 35 patent families.

Precise Guide for Trucks

Wendelin Feiten is the inventor of a guidance system for vehicles that are loaded with freight in harbors and container terminals. Previously, the truck drivers had to be guided into their precise positions under the loading cranes by means of hand signals from the dispatchers. That required a great deal of maneuvering on the part of the drivers. Feiten’s system consists of a laser distance measuring device, a processor, and software that uses measurements and comparative analysis to find out what kind of vehicle is involved and exactly where the crane should set down the container. A signal light shows the driver when and exactly where — down to the centimeter — he has to stop the truck. Thanks to the system, the truck is moved into the right position quickly and safely. The system also includes a method of automatic calibration so that it can be adjusted to local conditions without any technical difficulties. Feiten, a mathematician, is responsible for the algorithms at the heart of the software. Through his work he has been involved in the development of products in a broad range of segments, such as medical technology, package logistics, mail sorting, and train automation. The inventor’s list of achievements at Siemens Corporate Technology in Munich include 50 individual patents granted in 60 patent families.

New Motor Cooling System

A new cooling system invented by Bernd Pfannschmidt of Nuremberg boosts the motor output of gigantic mining trucks by 45 percent. The vehicles, which are used to transport ore and coal, are equipped with an electric motor on each of their rear wheels. Despite the fact that the traction motors are very robust, the trucks, which weigh up to 630 tons when fully loaded, sometimes have to stop so that the motors don’t overheat. This is especially the case when traveling on slopes. Space limitations make it impossible to use a larger motor, so the only approach was to modify the cooling system. Cold air flows into the motor on one side, where it cools the winding overhead and the end ring. It then flows through the air vents in the stator and the rotor to the other side of the motor, where it cools the second winding overhead and end ring. However, here the cooling effect is far less pronounced than at the intake because the air has been warmed by the motor. Pfannschmidt’s clever solution was to drill holes in the motor housing, ensuring more even distribution of the motor’s waste heat and thus more effective cooling. The inventor has registered 53 inventions, which have led to 49 individual patents and 51 patent families.

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