Best 2014 Romanian Invention (via 3M)  

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I have in the past participated in 'Romanians against others' contests (such as Brancusi @ Saatchi, cum 2 Ro) and never really liked the idea. So I organized quite a few of my own on this blog (guess the relevant category) and again participated in home-grown ones (selgros, roz cu bunici, leustean, verona, economy), and that was better. This time, I have in front of me a list of Romanian inventions (docx) and I get to vote which one deserves a prize from 3M. You can and should vote as well – see the link below.

Having studied Engineering gives me sufficient background to get some idea about each invention (and there’s almost 20 of them at a rough count), but to get a good overview, I still have to look at each one in detail.

If you’re curious (and also, just so that I don’t forget), my thesis dealt with measuring surface area of implants using Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS). In short, a well-designed hip or dental implant must not just allow but somehow encourage bone growth around its non-moving, fixed section. A big part of it is the material it is made of, while another important consideration is the porosity of the part that is meant to adhere to the bone. There are a number of techniques to make that surface porous (which, obviously, allows surrounding bone to better adhere) but to compare their effectiveness, you need a way to measure their results, or, to put it simply, to measure the surface area.

Those were the good times. Today I’m looking at the far less imaginative and not-so-revolutionary inventions of a few good paysans (“compatriots”, for the less-traveled). Life’s not fair, so be it. : – )

LE: Note that I take quite a bit of liberty in presenting some of these inventions, because this is my style; still, remember that behind each of these there are years of study and research and most of them have already gotten prizes and medals at various symposia. Furthermore, some may be in less “sexy” areas of industry or technology, but just because they’re not right under your nose it doesn’t mean that they are any less revolutionary or useful.

Here are my notes, in the reading order.

  1. Procedeu neinvaziv şi dispozitiv de măsurare a difuziei termice (by Popescu Aurelian, Savastru Dan, Miclos Sorin, Tautan Marina, Rusu Mădălin Ion, Savu Valeriu și Baschir Laurențiu Aurelian) – funkin’ awesome! One more Aurelian and I’d link a song by Andreescu.
  2. Microgenerator electromagnetic inerțial (by Cătanescu Alexandru-Laurentiu, Ignat Mircea, Puflea Ioan și Tincă Ion) – these guys are not good with marketing – where’s the female name? Their invention has better efficiency than the state of the art (current) design.
  3. Dispozitiv de aplicare a produselor de tratare pe firele de urzeală (by Visileanu Emilia, Rădulescu Radu, Nicula Gheorghe, Constantin Ștefan, Mituleasa Ion, Jipa Cristian) – something for Big Textile, which probably explains a woman’s presence, listed first. I cannot quite picture it, but if I owned a textile factory, I’d be very interested in learning more about it.
  4. Compozit textil termoizolant confecționat pentru mulcirea solului în agricultură (by Dan Maria, Dincă Laurențiu Christian, Mocoiu Ana Maria, Ghițuleasa Pyerina Carmen, Visileanu Emilia, Lilioara Surdu, Dumitru Anica, Viorica Luchian Lagunovschi) – this one has quite a few women, it’s done in a textile institute but it’s about mulching in agriculture. Reading it, I could not help thinking that part of the polystyrene granules will end up in the soil, and they do interact with plants and consumers in undesirable ways (we already have plastics in fish from the great plastic soup). Yes, polystyrene is different, but I’m not terribly excited about it. Call me biased and ignorant, if you will.
  5. Realizarea de preparate gliceroalcoolice şi hidrogliceroalcoolice cu efect antioxidant din miceliul Pleurotus ostreatus (by Emanuel Vamanu) – this guy is either very smart or a lone wolf. When considering that “gemotherapy” is essentially “allopathy” applied to young, growing plants and seedlings, the “lone wolf” hypothesis becomes more attractive.  If you’re a religious person or “homeopath”, consider voting for this. Or consider the fact that the most effective Big Pharma medicines tend to be based on plant extracts, meaning that the above might hold quite a bit of hope.
  6. Casoleta aseptică (by Norina Consuela Forna și Constantin Marin Antohi) – a box with a UV or ozone generator to keep stuff sterile. You can also get UV from the sun, but I can see how some patients would expect stuff to be sterile on rainy or overcast days as well. If you’re a dentist or dental assistant you’d “get” this one immediately.
  7. Sistem pentru determinarea centrului de rigiditate la mașinile de frezat by Claudiu Florinel Bîșu, Miron Zapciu și Anton Hadăr – determining the “centre of rigidity” is important in automatized manufacturing lines as that’s where the highest stability is encountered. If you’re operating a high-precision manufacturing line, finding the spot where there is the least vibration is quite important (imagine trying to fix a Swiss watch on the same table as your girlfriend after you hit her own spot).
  8. Set de organe de afânare a solului by Nicolae Constantin, Iosif Cojocaru, Ion Pirnă, Eugen Marin, Marinela Mateescu și Ioan Ganea-Christu – used in agriculture, this invention allows for a more efficient “turning around” of the soil (there’s a word for that in English, but I forgot it and it doesn’t come to me right now; “aeration”?).
  9. Procedeu de selecție de fiabilitate a structurilor semiconductoare cu joncțiuni p-n bazat pe accelerarea optică a generării-recombinării pe nivele adânci by Lucian Gălățeanu, Marius Bazu și Virgil Emil Ilian – a smarter, cheaper, faster, “deeper” method of accelerated aging for semiconductor (think of it as a “burn-in test” for tiny circuit components in earlier manufacturing stages).
  10. Procedeu biotehnologic de obținere a unui aluat acid uscat din făină integrală de secară by Banu Iuliana, Aprodu Iuliana, Vasilean Ina și Barbu Vasilica – a process to make bread out of whole (“integral”) rye flour using acidic dry dough; should make rye bread cheaper and more readily available (as well as, I’m guessing, other bread based on gluten-free flour).
  11. Instalație pentru aerarea apelor la suprafață by Giurma Ion, Antohi Constantin, Craciun Ioan și Telisca Marius – this helps keep water potable (and of good quality for fish) but can also be used to cool off a photovoltaic application, for instance.
  12. Echipament mecatronic, inovativ, pentru caracterizarea complexă a suprafețelor, în spaţiul vectorial – dimensiune, forţă, temperatură by Gheorghe I. Gheorghe, Aurel Zapciu și Iulian-Sorin Munteanu – CAD/CAM invention that “reads” surfaces by several dimensions, including force and temperature. More than a mere “camera” for your 3D printer.
  13. Procedeu de nanolitografie 2D și 3D de tip «fountain pen aperture» asistat optic by Gabriel Moagăr-Poladian – I talked about 3D printing above not realizing that the next invention (this one) is exactly about that. However, in this case, the inventor has to do a bit more work in terms of prototyping, this invention being mostly theoretical (“concept”) at this point in time.
  14. Dispozitiv pentru generarea câmpului ultrasonic în lichide aflate în recipiente cu orificii înguste by Chilibon Irinela, Savastru Dan și Savu Valeriu – this invention seems very “niche” in terms of applications. I don’t quite know where is an “ultrasonic field” needed and how it influences chemical reactions. I’d be interested to learn more about its applications, since it is likely used in very specific ones.
  15. Instalație pneumatică pentru scuturat pomii by Remi Rădulescu – this allows the vigorous shaking of fruit trees using compressed air (I presume with the intent to get the fruit) and it’s amenable for small scale use as well.
  16. Distilatorul solar cu recuperator de căldură by Radulescu Remi, Radulescu Raul – produces distilled water and hot water using only solar energy. I suspect it has a low efficiency, but if you really need distilled water and you’re off-grid, you don’t have that many options. (For drinking water I always prefer reverse osmosis + double carbon filtration.)
  17. Instalaţia pentru tăiat sloiuri de gheaţă by Radulescu Remi, Radulescu Raul, Radulescu Alin Razvan – cut icicles by spraying them with CaCl2 at high pressure (100 atm). Finally, a PORTABLE solution better than “wait for them to fall / melt”. Also, CaCl2 is used even in food.
  18. Sistemul Portabil Detector- Exhaustor Pentru Gaze nocive by Radulescu Remi, Radulescu Raul, Radulescu Alin Razvan – detects and exhausts (absorbs) noxious natural gases (e.g., butane, propane, CO, CO2, H2S). I wish it took care of radium from basements as well.
  19. Conductori nervosi din colagen + obtinere by doctor chimist Madalina Albu, profesor doctor Ioan Lascar, doctor Dragos Zamfirescu, academician Maya Simionescu, doctor Ion Zegrea, doctor Marius Popescu şi doctor biologg Irina Domnica Titorencu şi Georgeta Bumbeneci.

Choosing one single invention is not easy. By definition, they are all new, so I have to enunciate what is the most important criterion for me.

I tend to be easily excited when it comes to science and, despite the idiocy of my high-school physics prof, Physics was for a long time my favourite discipline. From that perspective, I’d go with #1. However, in University I gravitated toward Biomedical Engineering, and even on this blog I wrote about neuroplasticity, the brain and state of flow – in keeping with that, I’d have to go with #19.

In terms of relevance for me, I like rye bread but don’t eat it often, primarily because the brown (caramel) colour is given mostly by an artificial coloring agent that’s a known carcinogen; if this method preserves the brown color as well, I might eat it again (#10). Semiconductors is another exciting field, but the invention we have there (#9), though it sounds promising, has a description that isn’t detailed enough for me and as such I withhold judgement. I used to grow a few plants in my backyard, so I get what the agricultural inventions are doing, but #4 and #8 seem to be destined mostly for agribusiness (i.e., larger scale). All the inventions of Remi Radulescu & sons, or relatives (#15-18) are very cool and highly relevant to any homeowner, particularly one with property away from civilization, but the important question is how commercially viable are they? More precisely, does the cost justify the improvement in safety and comfort? For instance, I had in my backyard a pear tree, a cherry tree and an apple tree, and I liked climbing and getting the fruit that way. I did not really collect all the fruit from the floor, as it was generally bruised and, being unable to tell how long it’s been on the ground, some of it had gotten worms already. For me, the cost wasn’t worth it, but if I had at least 10 fruit trees and was selling the excess fruit, acquiring the device may have been worth it.

To cut the Gordian Knot, I’m going with #19 (“Nerve conductors from collagen”) – it’s cutting edge, I’ve a strong interest in neurology and, if the description is true, it has the potential to significantly improve on the application of that “primum non nocere” long-forgotten percept in microsurgery. Even though it’s applicable to only 10% of cases, science advances in small steps, and when it comes to medicine, even such a low applicability makes it worthwhile, especially since it also comes with a significant cost reduction.

Perhaps the most important question you oughtta ask yourself is would you be able to come up with an invention that’s even half as useful / revolutionary / intelligent as what you considered the worst above? I know I wouldn’t, for if I could, I would have done so by now.

Sources / More info: 3M-PremiileInovatiei, Wiki-DiE, participanti

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