The Next Great Thing: The Sun, the Stirling Engine, and the Drive to Change the World

Mark Shelton, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-03619-0
Sunpower Inc., founded in 1970 by William J. Beale, is a bootstrap engineering research company with a Holy Grail mission: to harness Stirling heat engine technology to applications that could save the world from carbon fuel pollution and could eliminate ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons from the atmosphere. In Shelton's lively account, Beale and his fellow engineers in Athens, Ohio, attempt to rob the second law of thermodynamics to give the world nearly free energy for basic heating, cooling and pumping operations. Also joining Beale, who emerges as a sort of second generation Buckminster Fuller, are the company's machinists and support staff--all dedicated to the cause and the process of their R & D effort. In this depiction of Sunpower's research and its ever more time absorbing and not always productive search for funding, freelancer Shelton captures the sheer sense of joy that powers these workers at technological frontiers and proves himself a technology writer on a par with Tracy Kidder. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
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Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-393-33403-6
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