Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Research and Development

Anyone who's ever worked in research knows that it can be a pretty tough environment at times. You can go months or sometimes even years with very little to show for your work but then every once in a while you come across a success or a new discovery and it makes it all worth it. Some people can't work that way and to be honest it is a real drag when you're fighting one failure after another but right now I'm smiling. I started with Hi-Z in February and we've been up against a deadline to meet a milestone by the end of the year but it has been an uphill battle all year. To make it worse, most of the problems have been equipment failures and not technical problems. Well recently we've been having a number of successes. We have demonstrated all but one of the critical components for our project and we just demonstrated that last component today. Now we are ready to put it all together and since it is now November it is none too soon. Wish me luck.

Since I've started working at Hi-Z everyone thinks I hate them because I rarely answer my phone if I'm at work. It really isn't true, I do love you but around Hi-Z it is highly frowned upon to talk on the phone. The few people who do talk on their cell phones are really frowned upon. For me it is even worse for two reasons, first of all I'm a manager so I need to set the example and secondly, the deadline I face is extremely important and could potentially affect the future of the company so I'm expected to be very focused when I'm there. It is so bad that the other day Norb (the majority owner of Hi-Z) told all the girls in the front office that they are no longer allowed to direct any customer calls to me. Anytime someone calls for technical help they always used to forward the calls to me but now all the other people get to cover the calls and I can focus on my work. He even told our patent attorney that I can't work with him anymore and he is writing the patents himself. In the summer I had Alex working for me but right now I have four people working for me plus I'm working with another engineer to get this done. It is very exciting and with our recent successes there is an almost electric feeling in the air.

One of my recent break throughs improved a process that took several hours to produce mediocre results to a process that takes five seconds with excellent results. I was just sitting at work one day trying to figure out better ways to complete this task and suddenly it all appeared in my head. I jury rigged a simple fixture and tried it out and bam, there it was. Perfect results in my very first attempt. I was amazed. That is very rare to get such a success on your first try.

Anyway, I hope you all understand that if I don't answer my phone when you call me at work it is probably because I have left my phone at my desk and I have my head in a test fixture. Please remember that I really do want to hear from you so please don't give up on me.


1) In this photo the astronaut is unloading the isotope fuel rod that he will insert into the thermoelectric generator already on the ground. This generator produced power to run the experiments on the moon for nearly twenty years before they turned it off. This generator was designed and built by 3M and is the technology that I learned when I started at Global.

2) This is a 500W thermoelectric generator made by Global that I helped design when I worked there. It is cooled by water heat pipes and uses the same 3M technology that is in the moon generator.

3) This is Mike Rowe, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales. The car he is showing off has a thermoelectric generator on its exhaust that converts some of the waste heat going out the exhaust into electricity. The thermoelectric generator on this car uses modules made by Hi-Z.

4) The three cylinders protruding out to the left of the Voyager are three thermoelectric generators fueled by plutonium isotopes. These probes launched in the seventies are still operational thirty years later. That is one heck of a generator.


Lynn said...

Your work seems all so exciting. I can see why you love it.

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

all over my head...

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

p.s. I called you the other day twice in a row and some lady answered and told me you were in a meeting... she seemed really upset at me for calling, even after I told him I was your daughter and apologized. haha She said she would have you call me back which you didn't but I think she scared me enough to not call you during work hours EVER AGAIN! haha

Lisa L said...

Besides being very smart you have been inspired. I seem to remember a particular blessing that talks about that :) Love you!