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January 08, 2009 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-01-08

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The 'Jewish Edison'
is invigorated with
creativity, ambition.

Bill Carroll
Special to the Jewish News


ne of the first things a visitor notices upon

entering Stanford Ovshinsky's office is
a wall chart titled: "Periodic Chart of the
Atoms, Grouped According to the Number
of Outer Electrons" — not to mention several other

charts showing memory activity in the brain.
"How often do you use these charts?" is the first

question to him.
"Oh, every day, in my inventions," he answers.
Right away, the visitor knows this isn't going to
be an interview with an average, every day, garden-

variety businessman. Ovshinsky Innovation LLC.,
of Bloomfield Hills, is a business, all right; but it is
being run by someone who has been called the

"Jewish Edison" — an engineer, scientist, physicist
and brilliant inventor with almost 400 patents. What's
more amazing is that he did all of this without a col-


lege education.
For more than 50 years — far before it became
fashionable — Ovshinsky has been worrying about
the environment and the dwindling oil supply. He


has been on a mission to wean America off oil and
onto things like hydrogen and solar energy to fuel

vehicles. With backing from various partners, he has
spent millions of dollars developing silicon semicon-
ductor materials, leading to a new phase of material
engineering, aiding, among other things, in the cre-

ation of today's new electric cars.
He invented the nickel-metal hydride battery,

which is used to power everything from portable
electronics to the new hybrid cars that are becoming
more and more popular in the automotive industry;
about 1 billion of these batteries are sold each year.
He also holds patents relating to thin-film solar

cells, rewriteable optical discs, a new form of non-
volatile memory and flat-panel displays. All these

inventions rely on Ovshinsky's discoveries in the
field of disordered or "amorphous" materials, since
named "ovonics" in his honor.
"I never really retired from my work or from the
world of science; just from my former company," he

explained. "I've said all along that I'm out to change
the world, and I have a lot more work to do. The
world still needs more affordable alternative energy,


Ovshinsky: "The

which is the very basis of the global economy. I'm
proud of the fact that I was into the 'greening' of auto-
mobiles far before the current efforts."

world still needs

more affordable

alternative energy,

In 2007, Ovshinsky left Energy Conversion
Devices Inc., the Rochester Hills-based company
he founded with his late wife, Iris, in 1960. Then last

which is the very

basis of the global


year, Ovshinksy, now 86, started over in an office in
a small building next to a former girls' school on East



January 8 2009

Square Lake Road in Bloomfield Hills. His brother,
Herb Ovshinsky of Bloomfield Hills, assists him.
Ovshinsky says he's not really competing with
ECD, where he was the main inventor and head sci-

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