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TRIZ Permeates Patent Use

| On 04, Aug 2008

By Abram Teplitskiy

An article in Scientific American (“NASA Spent Millions on a Pen Able to Write in Space” by Ciara Curtin, August 2007, page 104), explained that a lot of time, money and effort went to solve a problem that did not need to be solved – ball point pens need gravity, or some substitute to work in space. They eventually used a pressurized gas to push the ink, but many other kinds of writing instruments do not need extra help. A lot of problems exist in life, even in space, where the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) tools of understanding functions would improve the problem solving process – especially in order to avoid spending money on unnecessary problem solving.

Demonstrating a Molecule

Demonstrating a model of a molecule is difficult; in real life elements of the molecule are moving inside a molecule around equilibrium positions. Mechanical models, however, did not represent this dynamically. How could a dynamic model of a molecule be developed – one in which atoms would be in constant motion?

A former student of the author, Alexander Crohmal, thought of a solution, which was ignited by watching how a bicycle pump works. Try to move the handle of bicycle pump from its body a short distance, and let it go – what happens? It returns to its initial position. If it moves farther, it will stay in the farther position. Alexander used it as an analogy to make a demonstration model of a molecule, which could model its two positions (Figure 1). (Alexander Crohmal became the youngest inventor in Europe at that time and got a Soviet Union patent for his efforts.)

Figure 1: Dynamic Model of Molecule

Courtesy of Anatoly Nelidin

Between two balls, which are models of the molecule’s atoms, Alexander installed a nipple hand pump, one end of which is connected with the handle; another is connected with the end of the pump.

When the handle is completely inside the handle’s case, air from the case will go through the nipple. Try to pull apart the balls and let them go. The balls will return to their initial position by way of atmospheric pressure. This represents the elastic phase of deformation of the system of two atoms. If the balls are moved apart, when the piston moves over the inlet hole, air goes inside the case, and the balls stay in the plastic phase of deformation.

Weighing an Elephant

In a hobby group used to teach students hot to invent, the question arose: How to weigh an elephant? Everyone who has taken a bath should have noticed that the level of water elevates while somebody is submerged in a bathtub. The students proposed using this method to find out how much an elephant weighs.

Now that these students were familiar with applying various lessons from TRIZ, they looked at patents to see which inventiveprinciples mighthave beenunknowingly used by the inventors.

Inventors Unknowingly Using TRIZ

Figure 2 relates to an improved free-escape or safety device, by which a person may safely jump out of the window of a burning building from any height and land, without injury and with the least damage. The parachute-like cover was used in combination with over-sized shoes that have elastic bottom pads of suitable thickness. Students decided that this was an early use of the 40 inventive principles, specifically principle 8, “anti-weight.”

Figure 2: Early Safety Device

U.S. Patent # 221,855 (circa 1879)

Figure 3 shows the development of eye protectors, and more particularly of eye protectors designed for chickens, so that their eyes may be protected from other birds that might attempt to peck them. A more evolved version includes the ability to make them easily and quickly applied and removed, and will not interfere with the sight of the fowl. The overall TRIZ concept is to prepare in advance to prevent an undesired outcome.

Figure 3: Eye Protectors

U.S. Patent # 730,918 (circa 1903)

Robert Harrison took the invention of eye protectors for chickens, when he was employed by one of the biggest chicken companies in Oregon. In 1978, the number of chickens grew to more than 470 million, and on big farms it was more than tens of thousands.

Keeping chickens is a complicated process, and it was necessary to prevent the birds from beating each other’s eyes, because it could lead to death. The main attraction for beating the red crests of other birds is the red crests themselves! Harrison invented special lenses for chickens’ eyes so that the birds’ vision was impaired and did not see the red crests of other birds on the farm. The TRIZ principle used here is color change – filters in the lenses prevented the birds from seeing the red “targets” on the other birds.

Finishing this discussion of birds, one hen house began to provide its owners with a second set of eggs. When people switched the hen house light on at night, the hens believed it was day and, therefore, produced more eggs. The workers were (presumably unknowingly at the time) using TRIZ existing resources – the chickens’ biological response to light – to get the desired result.


These examples show that the 40 inventive principles can be seen in many patents, beyond those that were developed specifically using TRIZ.