When you mention Luxembourg, one conjures up images of the world of finance and economics. But this impression of Luxembourg is ill-founded, because the Grand Duchy offers a wealth of other assets, such as its innovative companies and their extensive expertise. Moreover, there is no shortage of ingenious ideas that first saw the light of day in Luxembourg, as history has demonstrated. That is why we have drawn up our Top 5 Luxembourg inventions that have shaped technical progress and our everyday lives. Spotlight on inventors and designers
Henri Tudor's accumulator
Henry Tudor was an engineer, inventor and industrialist. His name stands out in an era of progress in electrical science.
In fact, owing to the invention of his lead-acid battery, Henri Tudor became one of the pioneers in the field of electricity storage. He built the first accumulator in the world to store and distribute electrical energy.
However, you will claim that it was the Frenchman Gaston Planté who invented the first rechargeable lead acid battery in 1859. And you are correct! The design was improved upon by the electro-chemist Camille Faure in 1881. However, in practice this battery did not function properly as short-circuits were frequent. Therefore, it was a commercial failure.
Henry Tudor, who was also interested in electricity and the issues associated with its storage, looked for a solution to this problem. As a student, he transformed the experimental model created by Planté and Faure. In 1881, he finally managed to perfect a system to store electrical energy using a lead accumulator. This resulted in a combined device - a generator and accumulator. In contrast to Planté's invention, Tudor's device produced a constant and regular electrical current. As such, the first Tudor accumulator was born. It worked for 16 years without interruption.
After having patented his invention, Henri Tudor and his brother Hubert were able to convince the authorities in Echternach to replace the oil lamps with electric lamps. Thus, in 1886, a whole city in Luxembourg was illuminated by electrical power.
His achievement earned him a reputation outside of the Grand Duchy and made it possible to use electricity to light up streets throughout Europe. In order to manufacture the equipment necessary for this project, the two brothers and their cousin Nikolas Schalkenbach opened a modest factory in Rosport. At the time of his death, 25,000 people were working in Henri Tudor's factories.
At present, environmentally friendly mobility powered by electricity has become part of our daily lives. Moreover, it is thanks to Henri Tudor's invention that the epic electro-mobility adventure has become an ever-present reality. In fact, the creation of the car of tomorrow is directly linked to the manufacture of rechargeable batteries developed by an inventor from the town of Rosport!
The Tudor museum
A museum dedicated to work and the inventions of Henri Owen Tudor is located in the former home of the inventor in his Rosport manor house. He lived in this building until passed away in 1928. His death was attributed to severe lead poisoning as a result of his research work. The Tudor museum presents the world of electricity and the battery in an illuminating way.
William Justin Kroll's soft titanium
You may not be familiar with the Kroll procedure. However, it is due to this technique that a new stage in the evolution of the steel industry was created. The man behind this industrial revolution is one of Luxembourg's greatest innovators - the metallurgist William Justin Kroll, who was born in November 1889 in Esch-sur-Alzette.
Even today, a wide range of scientific, technical and technological developments owe a great deal to this man. In 1932, he invented an industrial process for extracting titanium from calcium and titanium tetrachloride. In other words, he perfected the production of a consistent and corrosion-resistant soft titanium metal. It was a revolutionary discovery and is now found in a wide range of construction and engineering products and processes, including components in aircraft, boats, cars, tennis rackets, jewellery and even surgical implants.
Following his revolutionary innovation, he began to produce titanium on an industrial scale in Bereldange in 1938. He emigrated to America in 1940 in order to escape the wave of Nazism sweeping across Europe.
On the other side of the Atlantic, he further honed his manufacturing process, first at Union Carbine and then as a consulting metallurgist for the Bureau of Mines. The industrial-scale manufacturing of titanium opened the door to large-scale commercialisation. The US military, in particular the US Air Force, was particularly interested in the advantages of titanium-based alloys for the development of jet engines.
Hugo Gernsback, the 'Father of Science Fiction'
It is true that his name is not familiar to most ears, but nevertheless, we owe a lot to Hugo Gernsback (formerly Gernsbacher), who was born in August 1884 in Bonnevoie. He attended the "École industrielle et commerciale" in Luxembourg in 1896 before moving to Brussels two years later. In 1904, at the age of 20, he left Europe for the United States, and changed his name to Gernsback. In 1906, he invented the wireless telegraph, which was the origin of the walkie-talkie.
In addition, he founded a science fiction publishing empire. His publishing houses were home to more than 50 newspapers, illustrated magazines, humorous journals, weeklies and monthlies devoted to technology and popular science.
In 1929, he coined the phrase "science fiction" in the preface of the Science Wonder Stories magazine and wrote a series of stories and novels in English in this literary genre.
Also, he made major contributions to the growth and development of modern science fiction as a writer, editor and critic. He founded the Science Fiction League and since 1953 it has awarded the best American science fiction stories with the famous Hugo prize. In 1960, he was awarded this prize which is named in his honour.
Glass manufactured in Luxembourg rises high in Dubai
In Dubai, one architectural feat outshines another. Among all these spectacular buildings, one truly stands out on the skyline: the Burj Khalifa. This magnificent edifice, which soars high in the Middle Eastern sky, reaches 828 metres, making it the tallest building ever built.
Since its inauguration in January 2010, the Burj Khalifa has almost stolen the limelight from all the other buildings and monuments in this desert city in the Emirates. At 1.5 billion dollars, not only does the cost of construction seem mammoth in scale, the technical specifications also make the eyes water: 160 habitable floors, 57 lifts and a surface area of 310,000 m2. And that's not all, this silver, spiral-shaped rocket-like building is covered with several kilometres of glass which reflects the sky across its outer shell.
This is where Luxembourg know-how comes to the fore! Did you know that the windows of this giant structure were built by a company based in Bascharage called Guardian Luxguard S.A.? The Luxembourg manufacturer was chosen to supply the 600,000m2 of low-emissivity glass for the 206-storey Burj Khalifa Tower.
The experts at Guardian were able to develop a type of glass which could withstand the extreme height and temperatures. According to Guardian, the pressure generated by the difference in height and temperature can cause deflections in the glass. Thus, the glass for the Burj Khalifa was produced at a temperature of 26 degrees and installed in Dubai at a temperature of 48 degrees. Also, the solar panels, which filter almost all of the sun's energy, are also designed to withstand high winds of up to 250km/h.
Prefalux builds a polar station
This research station is situated at an altitude of 4,000 metres. The weather conditions are extreme and temperature range from -50 to -80 degrees Celsius. Welcome to the Belgian Princess Elisabeth polar station in Antarctica! When researchers and scientists brave the elements in this inhospitable region, it is because they have an important mission to fulfil: to research the glaciers. They come here to collect data in order to assess the melting rates of ice, as it has a direct effect on the rise in sea levels.
It was in 2008 that the dream of building a scientific base at the South Pole to study the melting ice became reality thanks to the efforts of the explorer Alain Hubert with the support of the Baudouin Foundation. One of the principles behind this unique construction project was to use environmentally friendly renewable energy.
But the stakes were high as polar stations are known to be energy-hungry. However, this new station would consume only 20% of non-renewable energy.
The International Polar Foundation entrusted this mission to the Luxembourg construction firm Prefalux. It was tasked with developing, manufacturing and building the wooden frame of the structure, as well as the outer walls on the facade and the roof, and assembling all these parts in Antarctica.
Needless to say, building a 700m2, zero-emissions polar station, is no easy task. It was a real race against time, as assembly had to be completed in a short time frame of between six weeks and two months. After this point, the deteriorating weather conditions would prevent any further work from being carried out.
The wooden frames and the entire cladding of the polar station were manufactured in record time in the Junglinster factories. Subsequently, the Prefalux teams carried out a test assembly in Brussels in September 2007. The station was then transported by ship to Antarctica, where it was assembled over a period of 10 weeks between December 2007 and March 2008.
It was no doubt a major challenge for Prefalux to accept and deliver a project of this complexity, however in the end the Luxembourg company has gained a lot of prestige in this field and the gamble ultimately paid off. Today, the station can host around 20 scientists.
For this incredible achievement, the Prefalux teams were awarded the Trade Innovation prize in 2008. The project is called "Wood in the eternal ice".