Carl von Linde – Invented 1st Successful Compressed Ammonia Refrigerator

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Name: Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde
Birth Date:  June 11, 1842 – November 16, 1934
Job Functions: Engineer, Inventor
Fields: Engineering
Known For: Inventing First Successful Compressed Ammonia Refrigerator

Carl von Linde was an inventor who was able to make a commercial success of his invention. For instance, he invented refrigerators that used either methyl ether or ammonia as coolants, and was able to sell 12,000 units. What was it about Linde that made him able to successfully blend science with entrepreneurship? Most inventors are not entrepreneurs. This mini bio of Carl von Linde looks at his background. What can you learn from him?

Carl von Linde
Deutsch: Joule-Thomson-Effekt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Application of Ideas That Matter – Carl von Linde Developing the Leader in You

  1. Learn to blend disciplines to create something amazing.
  2. Be consistent and build on your successes.
  3. Find ways to apply what you know.

Carl von Linde’s Steps to Success

  1. Carl von Linde’s maternal grandfather was a businessman.
  2. Linde pursued classical studies at the Gymnasium. In addition to his literary and cultural interests, he was also interested in technical matters which directed him to machine construction.
  3. Varied studies: Studied science and engineering with Rudolf Clausius, Gustav Zeuner, and Franz Reuleaux, aesthetics with Friedrich Theodor Vischer, and art history with Wilhelm Lubke.
  4. From 1864 to 1866 Linde received practical training from the locomotive and machine factory of August Borsig.
  5. In 1866 became the head of the technical department of the newly founded locomotive manufacturers, Krauss and Company.
  6. In 1868, became extraordinary professor and the newly founded Munich Polytechnische Schule, and in 1872, full professor of theoretical engineering.
  7. In 1870, Linde started to investigate refrigeration.
  8. His friend, Gabriel Sedlmayr, from the Spatenbrau brewery, and also president of the German Brewer’s Union, asked him to develop a refrigeration system that would make possible for  year-round beer brewing.
  9. Research on heat theory led to the first successful compressed ammonia refrigerator – by 1874 Linde had developed a methyl ether refrigerator, followed by an ammonia-compressor model in 1876.
  10. Believed that refrigerators should be useful not only for the making of ice, but also for the direct cooling of liquids.
  11. Left teaching in 1879 and founded the Gesellschaft für Linde’s Eismaschinen to develop his process industrially.
  12. By 1891 he had sold 12,000 domestic refrigerators in Germany and the United States.
  13. The commercial success of the refrigerators gave Linde the freedom to pursue his next project which was removing heat from gases and liquids at low temperatures.
  14. James Joule and William Thomson demonstrated that a compressed gas becomes cooler when it expands, assuming it does not absorb heat from its surroundings.
  15. Linde built on Joule’s and Thomson’s work, and used a phenomenon called the Joule-Thomson effect to cool and compress liquid air, allow it to expand, which cools it even more. This work laid the foundation  for the liquid air production industry.
  16. Developed more economical methods of separating liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, which both found many practical uses in research and industry. In biological research, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze blood cells, sperm, tissues, and even whole small organisms. Also had important commercial applications in steel manufacture.
  17. In 1902, successfully developed devices for obtaining pure oxygen by means of rectification, for the production of pure nitrogen through the use of the nitrogen cycle process (1903), and for producing hydrogen from water gas by means of partial condensation of carbon monoxide (1909).
  18. The production of pure oxygen was of great importance, as was that of pure nitrogen for the large scale production of calcium nitrate, ammonia, and saltpeter.
  19.  Linde commercialized his inventions by founding a group of enterprises in Europe and overseas.
  20. The first laboratory for applied physics in Germany was founded at the Munich Technische Hochschule in 1902 because of Linde.

Biggest Accomplishments/Why Carl von Linde’s Contribution Matters

  1. Invented the first successful compressed ammonia refrigerator.
  2. Successfully developed devices for obtaining pure oxygen,  pure nitrogen and hydrogen from water gas.
  3. His work laid the for the liquid air production industry.

Lessons from Carl von Linde

  1. Build on the work of others to solve everyday problems. Linde built on the work of James Joule and William Thomson creating a phenomenon called the Joule-Thomson effect, which subsequently laid the foundation for the liquid air production industry.
  2. Work consistently to achieve a lifetime of work.
  3. Have a specialty, but know a little bit about a lot of things.

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Sources Cited/Referenced

Science and Its Times
World of Scientific Discovery
World of Invention
Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography

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