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Stanford Ovshinsky, Hybrid Car Battery Inventor, Has Died 38

Posted by timothy
from the sainthood-nomination-time dept.
another random user writes "Stanford Ovshinsky, a self-taught American physicist who designed the battery now used in hybrid cars, has died aged 89 from prostate cancer . The electronics field of ovonics was named after Mr Ovshinsky, who owned over 200 patents and has been described as a '[Thomas] Edison of our age.' He introduced the idea of 'glass transistors' in 1968, which paved the way for modern flat-screen monitors."
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Stanford Ovshinsky, Hybrid Car Battery Inventor, Has Died

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  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @02:53AM (#41713001) Homepage

    One of the great inventors. "Ovonics", amorphous-siliicon solar cells, batteries...

    • I didn't realise that he invented amorphous cells, history will show whether he is remembered more for those or if his batteries sparked (sorry, couldn't resist (sorry)) a transport revolution (OK I'll stop now).
      • You can argue that he commercialized amorphous silicon solar cells, but he most certainly did not invent them. That distinction goes to Chris Wronski and David Carlson at RCA.
  • by KrazyDave (2559307) <htcprog@gmail.com> on Saturday October 20, 2012 @03:13AM (#41713059) Homepage
    ...my dad was a physicist at ECD (when Ovshinsky owned it) in Troy, MI back in ca. '70 and I was about 8 years old at the time. We used to go to his house for dinner and BBQs a lot and he would stock my favorite pop (strawberry Faygo) for me at his house. He was a very nice guy.
    • by dunelin (111356) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @07:11PM (#41717663)

      I show the "Hydrogen Hopes" episode of Alan Alda's Scientific American Fronteirs (PBS) every year in my high school Chemistry class. Mr. Ovshinsky is a prominent figure in the program, showing off his solar cells, hydrogen storage media, and other inventions. The guy was truly remarkable and seemingly always thinking. We need more like him, people who are thinking of ways to improve the world (not just make money).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not dumb! When I was just beginning to commence to start building my first EV..I called Mr Ovshinsky..and got him! Explaining I wanted to use his batteries,H e patiently explained to me why he couldn't help me.. Personally, I think the news about A123 killed him, not cancer. HE always was among the great in my mind Franlin,Edison,Tesla...A real renaissance genius.

  • Mr. Ovshinsky is man much greater than Edison could ever dream.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    News stories like these remind me that I've wasted my life.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Ovshinsky.

  • Electric car is looking gloomier and gloomier :/

    • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @06:42PM (#41717509) Homepage

      And all the professional physicists and engineers denied that amorphous semiconductors were possible for many years, even when confronted with evidence... See for example:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/9621164/Stanford-Ovshinsky.html [telegraph.co.uk]
      "In 1960, with his second wife Iris, a biochemist, he founded Energy Conversion Laboratories (later renamed Energy Conversion Devices, or ECD) at Rochester Hills, Michigan, to develop his ideas, and in 1968 held a press conference at which he announced that he had succeeded in making a "glass transistor" that relied on a principle which (with understandable immodesty) he called Ovonics. This breakthrough, he predicted, would eventually lead to desktop computers and television sets "hanging like portraits on the wall". The announcement made the front pages and ECDâ(TM)s stock (the company went public in 1967) soared. Within days, however, semiconductor engineers dismissed the idea and ECDâ(TM)s stock price collapsed. Most scientists had never heard of amorphous materials, and some rubbished Ovshinsky as a high school dropout and former machinist with no university qualifications. He was branded a crank. Eventually, though, Ovshinskyâ(TM)s theories proved correct, ushering in a whole new field of solid-state physics."

      I can wonder if we'll see the same with so-called "cold fusion" (LENR)? Example:
      http://pesn.com/2012/10/18/9602209_LENR-to-Market_Weekly_October18/ [pesn.com]

      See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disciplined_Minds [wikipedia.org]
      "Disciplined Minds is a book by physicist Jeff Schmidt,[1] published in 2000. The book describes how professionals are made; the methods of professional and graduate schools that turn eager entering students into disciplined managerial and intellectual workers that correctly perceive and apply the employer's doctrine and outlook. Schmidt uses the examples of law, medicine, and physics, and describes methods that students and professional workers can use to preserve their personalities and independent thought."

      I've always found the story of Stanford Ovshinsky inspirational. He was like a more-well-grounded Bucky Fuller. Too bad about prostrate cancer; here is some advice on reducing the risk for those of us (males) who carry on:
      http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/prostate-cancer-dr-fuhrmans-diet-advice-for-prostate-health.html [diseaseproof.com]

  • Hybrid car battery (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @06:31AM (#41713631)

    Just to be pedantic, he invented Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries which happen to be used in most hybrids, but of course are used in a million other places as well.
    RIP.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      They're not even used in most hybrids now, because the world has moved on to Lithium. They were used in the original Honda Insight, but the technology was sold to Chevron who placed it under onerous licensing terms. Even R/C cars and rechargeable flashlights have moved on from NiMH to LiPo or LiFePo.

      • by hazydave (96747)

        Most hybrid cars still use NiMh. Look at Toyota, the most popular maker of hybrids. All of the 2012-2013 Prius models use NiMh except for the plug-in Prius. The big problem with any rechargeable has been battery life. NiMh cells last pretty much forever as long as you run only part of their capacity. The first two Prius generations (1997-2000, 2001-2003) used only 40% of the battery capacity. From 2004 on, they boosted this to 60%.

        The full electric cars have largely jumped to Lithium for energy density. But

    • by HuguesT (84078)

      No he didn't. His company holds a number of patents regarding the use of NIMH batteries, particularly in automobiles, but he cannot be regarded as the sole inventor of the NIMH chemistry used in related batteries. R&D into this domain started in the 1960s. In the mid 1980s working but expensive NIMH batteries existed for specialized applications like powering satellites. However he contributed to find a way to replace expensive rare earth materials by something cheaper, paving the way to mass market a

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @07:18AM (#41713795) Homepage Journal

    Not dead ... just permanently discharged.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I worked for ECD for 3 years just before and just after Stan "left" (corporate code for "was forced out"). It was one incredible place and he was a pretty incredible guy. So many interesting inventions that unfortunately never really got off the ground. That was partly because Stan tried to treat each of his inventions as a thing to be nurtured, even when it was clear that they were either un-economical or ahead of their time and partly because he partnered with a lot of big companies that stole the stuff t

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