Background Research

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Background research is an exhaustive search of available prior art on a given technology. For a broad overview, works on the history of a technology are a great starting point. In the best case scenario, there is a significant body of online open source design that a current project could build on- such as already exists for open source 3D printing. Other sources include a scan of patents, academic literature, industry association publications, online forums and interest groups, work of appropriate technology groups, institutes, and foundations, and others. If there are no existing open source projects on a given topic, then basic due diligence can be started - and when documented - can build upon itself towards project completion.

How to do a Patent Search

Note that patents do not disclose technical design. They only show diagrams and concepts, but not the actual knowhow for how to replicate a given technology - despite the claim that 'those skilled in the art' would know how to replicate it.

The truth is, patents are part of a system of Artificial Scarcity - providing sufficient information to identify what is protected, without providing the technical know-how or production engineering for how to replicate. Patents are, however, useful in understanding some mechanisms for how some things work.

You can also access U.S. patent applications online. Start at Next, under the heading Related USPTO Services, click on Tools to Help Searching by Patent Classification. You can now start searching. Patent searches may also be done at and at a number of other free sites.

Team Ecology

A big part for doing useful research is orienting oneself with what areas need to be researched in general for a given product.

Looking at the Development Template exposes what needs work - missing content is simply that which needs to be worked on. By examining the content, a developer can tell what is missing if the developer understands the OSPD.

The start for understanding what is needed for a given project - check out what information is already covered in the Development Template as the first step. An important step for orienting development is Industry Standards.


Possible Research Process

  1. Look up Wikipedia or Appropedia as a starting point.
  2. Google the topic at hand. Select keywords directly related to search, such as "Open Source High Pressure Electrolyzer". The best case outcome is that an open source version exists, including a developer community, and that community can be tapped for a complete solution with OSE Spec. Sample results - [1] and [2], and [3] and [4]. 30 atm alkaline electrolyzer - [5].
  3. Search USPTO patents and other patent databases for patents. Read them to see the ideas that have already been considered. Reviewing patents allows you to see the year when something has been developed- where anything 19 years and older is effectively open source.
  4. Quantify the result to see if there are meaningful results, and if not, search deeper.
  5. Procure phone numbers, make calls - regarding availability of data - and document in a commenting + upvoting interface such as Upvoting. Anyone can sign up for and use an instance of Disqus.
  6. Conditions of satisfaction involve point-by-point meeting of OSE Specifications and documentation of such.
  7. A list of critical parameters are identified for existing industry standards. Cost, LCA, fabrication, etc. Ex. Electrolyzer costs $1k/kW. For $3k we can have storage of H2 in PVC pipe - $1/watt for solar panels, $1k for an electrolyzer, and then we cook for free. [6] - up to 30 ATM.
  8. Background research continues until open design is identified, or if not, a Design Rationale is constructed that embodies the critical elements of a workable design.
  9. Reification is then proposed by providing sourcing information, building of parts, test-driven design, and other data collection until desirable results are obtained.

Specific Research Tasks

Community Development

  • Search active groups on FB, email lists, IRC channels, Linked In, and anywhere else where active discussion is taking place. Document these under Active Communities

Sample Conclusion

30ATM alkaline electrolyzers are proven and available technology. [7]. Based on Hydrogen discussion, a maximum allowable tank size for a personal vehicle is 1 GGE - or about 27 hp hours. That is acceptable for a superefficient personal vehicle. The battery pack size for a Tesla is 80 hp-hr, at $15k so the hydrogen storage GGE/ESE is approximately 100x lower cost over an LCA time of 100 years than the Lithium Ion battery. The hydrogen storage is assumed to be 2400' of of 1" schedule 80 PVC pipe, based on 50-100 year PVC Lifetime.