Measurement and Detection Standards from the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

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This paper was first published in the proceedings of the Annual American Physical Society March Meeting, March 2002. Dr. Slocum served as the Chair of the Instrumentation and Measurements Session.

Measurement and Detection Standards from the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Michael S. Slocum, K.O.St.I., Ph.D.
Vice-President of Science and Engineering
Ontro, Inc.*
Poway, CA 92064
(* Adjunct Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University)



TRIZ, Substance-Field Analysis, Su-Field Model, TIPS, detection, measurement, 76 Standard Solutions, Contradictions


The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving provides a method of creating a model (in addition to many other data based problem solving tools) of any existing system (technical or non-technical). There are 76 standard solutions that may be utilized when the model of your system has deficiencies or inadequacies but not necessarily a technical or physical contradiction (TC or PC). These solutions transformations are grouped into five major classes. Class 4 is dedicated precisely to measuring and detecting and can offer highly innovative resolutions to previously intractable measuring and/or detecting systems.


Dr. Genrich Altshuller developed the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving in the former Soviet Union beginning in 1946. This theory constitutes a data based approach to innovatively resolving difficult problems. At the foundation of the theory is the realization that nearly all innovative patents contained a resolution to some type of contradiction (technical (TC) and/or physical (PC)). Fundamental principles for problem resolution were cultivated from the review of approximately 400,000 patents (initial research, the total number of reviewed patents now approaches 4,000,000. There have been only minor modifications to the basic principles based on this additional research.). These patents were classified according to their inventive level (specifically defined in the portion of the theory applicable to this) and the most innovative levels (~21%) were selected for further analysis. This analysis yielded 40 principles of resolution that could be applied to any generic problem formulation. The theory was continuously developed and other more advanced principles were identified that were utilized to solve those problems characteristically more difficult than the lower levels of difficulty. A portion of this work was associated with the minimum required technical system. The minimum technical system was found to consist of a field (F) and two substances (S1 and S2). The interrelationship is indicated in Figure 1.0:

Figure 1.0: Standard minimum required technical system graphically represented according to Su-Field Principles.

This standard minimum system and transformations of it (which is a generic formulation, according to the corollaries associated with Su-Field Analysis, for your specific problem) became the foundation of a set of standard solutions (76 Standard Solutions) that is effectively utilized for manipulation with the intent of the model transformations analogically resulting in solutions to your specific problem. These solutions, or standard transformations, are grouped into five classes, see Figure 2.0.











Figure 2.0: Classes of the Standard Su-Field Solutions and their respective groups.

This paper will elucidate those solution transformations particular to Class 4, Measurement and Detection Standards, Groups 4-1 through 4-5.




Overcoming contradictions solves both simple and complex problems. But why do contradictions occur? Because, striving to improve the world around us, the inventor demands a lot from technical objects. This is logical, for, in order to meet the increasing demand, technical systems (TS) should constantly increase in efficiency (or decrease in harmful, or redundant, properties). This means that one group of inventive problems focuses on improving the existing technical systems. Once involved in the technological evolution process, they start facing contradictions. The increasing demand can not always be met by improving the existing TS. This gives rise to a question: are there problems where no contradiction can be defined?

Example: In the course of reconstruction, a match factory was equipped with high-performance machines that doubled the factory’s production rate. Yet, there was an operation that slowed down the whole process: packing the ready matches into boxes. The old machines could not cope with twice as much production; the lack of space made it impossible to install two packing lines. Finally a decision was made to remove the out-of-date packing equipment. The old equipment had some deficiencies too: it was ‘blind’ and would often pack reject matches without heads or pack the wrong number of matches. Therefore, it became urgent to find an accurate method for packing millions of matches into boxes. There was a requirement for a system that would detect faulty matches.

There is no visible contradiction in this problem, but still there is the need to find a solution. The introduction of a small amount of ferromagnetic powder (application of a standard form Class 4, Group 4.4) to the ignition compound gives slight magnetic properties to each match. This is enough to orient the matches in a magnetic field and pack them much faster and with much higher accuracy (for a magnet of certain surface square attracts a fixed number of matches).

Let us analyze the problem and its solution in detail. First, as the conditions of the problem suggest, there is nothing to improve: the old TS was dismantled. Therefore, a new system should be created. The matches are there, but what are we supposed to do with them? Should we count, orient, or package the matches? The problem was solved using the introduction of a ferromagnetic powder into the ignition compound of the match heads and using a magnetic field to create a system that could easily detect and control defect reduction in the packaged system.

In the beginning, there was one substance (the matches, S1), and in the end there were two substances (the matches, S1, and the ferromagnetic powder, S2) and one field (magnetic, FM). We will use the following symbols to represent the system as depicted in Figure 4.0:

Figure 4.0: Initial Su-Field model and the synthesis to a complete model.

Let us now look at how the system works. The magnetic field (FM) acts on the ferromagnetic powder, S2, which, in turn, acts on the matches (S1). Graphically the operation can be represented as depicted in Figure 5.0.

Figure 5.0: Su-field model for the example system.

In other words, we worked from a single element (S1) towards a system of interacting elements (S1, S2, and FM). A double arrow (to avoid confusion with arrows that indicate the interaction between elements) indicates this transition. The entire process of transition can be as displayed in Figure 6.0.

Figure 6.0: Incomplete system and the transformation to a solution model using Class 4 Group 4.4 from the 76 Standard Solutions.


All this resembles the symbolic representations of a chemical reaction. Two elements (e.g. oxygen and nitrogen) are heated (i.e. an external thermal field is introduced). As a result of interaction, they form a molecule of water. But if a single atom is withdrawn from the molecule, the water will disappear...Can we treat the right-hand triangle of this technical reaction, in Figure 6.0, formula as a ‘molecule’ of technical system (TS)? Let us validate this idea: will the system work if we withdraw any of the substances? No, the system will fall apart and cease to be a system. The same holds true for the situation in which the field is withdrawn. Does this mean that the system’s operation is secured by the presence of all three of the elements? Yes. This follows from the main principle of materialism: a substance can only be modified by material factors, i.e. by matter or energy (a field). With respect to a TS, this principle is as follows: a substance can only be modified as a result of a direct action performed by another substance (for example, impact - mechanical field) or by field action of another substance (for example, magnetic) or by an external field. As a consequence, the minimal number of elements any TS consists of is three: two substances and a field. The concept of minimal TS was named substance-field system, or Su-Field (from ‘substance’ and ‘field’, see Figure 7.0).

A Su-Field model is a representation of the minimal, functioning and controllable technical system.

Figure 7.0: The definition of a Su-Field Model (SFM).


Discarding redundancies, Su-Field models shed light on the essence of transformations (synthesis and evolution) of technical systems and allow the use universal technical language to represent the process of solving any inventive problem. That is why analysis of substance-field structures in those parts of technical systems where contradictions occur under transformation is called Su-Field analysis. Su-Field analysis presents a general formula that shows the direction of solving the problem. This direction depends heavily on the initial conditions of the problem. Consider the example problem: any slightest alteration of conditions will profoundly change the process of solving the problem. For example, no materials may be introduced into the match head, no cooling medium can be poured into the hollow boom of the robot, etc. How can you decide then, which step to take?

There are several rules of Su-Field synthesis. Several rules will be presented in this paper (certainly only a small subset). One of them is described in Figure 8.0:

1. Non-Su-Field systems (containing one element), or incomplete Su-Field systems (with 2 elements), should be developed into a full Su-Field model: If there is an object which is not easy to change as required, and the conditions do not contain any limitations on the introduction of substances and fields, the problem is to be solved by synthesizing a Su-Field model: the object is subjected to the action of a physical field that produces the necessary change in the object. The missing elements are introduced accordingly.

Figure 8.0

Quite often, conditions contain two substances and a field that have insufficient interaction and cannot be replaced with other substances or field. That is, the SFM is there (all the three elements are present) and, at the same time, it is not there: it simply won’t work. The same may happen after completing a SFM. That means that the SFM needs to be improved: the substances should become controllable, the field should have a desired effect, and the character of interaction of elements should proceed as required. There is a set of transformation rules for substances and fields in Su-Field models, see Figures 9.0 and 10.0.

2. Formation of complex Su-Field by introducing an easily controllable admixtures possessing desirable properties into the substance. The admixture can be introduced into the substance (internal complex Su-Field) or, where internal introduction is inadmissible, placed outside the substance (external complex Su-Field).

Figure 9.0

Figure 10.0: Non-existent interactions are shown by dotted lines. Brackets indicate internal complex links. External complex links have no brackets.

a) internal complex Su-Field: wetting of fabric (Problem 2); foaming of varnish (Problem 3); emergence of multi-colored inserts impressed at certain distance to the cutting edge indicates the wear of the cutting tool (Soviet Patent no. 905 417);

b) external complex Su-Field -- admixing ferromagnetic powder to cereal (Problem 16), production of hollow metal porous balls: polystyrene balls are given a metal coat and subsequently dissolved in organic solvent (US Patent 3 371 405). To avoid rumpling, the corrugations of the thin surface are filled with low-melting-point metal, which is withdrawn after treatment (Soviet Patent no. 776 719).


3. If the conditions contain limitations on the introduction or attachment of substances, the problem has to be solved by synthesizing a Su-Field model using external environment as the substance:

Sse is the substance from the surrounding environment

Figure 11.0: the left part of the formula coincides with that in the previous formulas.




STANDARD 4-1-1. If we are given the problem of detection or measurement, it is proposed to change it such that there should be no need to perform detection or measurement at all.

Example. To prevent a permanent electric motor from overheating, its’ temperature is measured by a temperature sensor. If the poles of the motor are made from an alloy with a Curie point equal to the critical value of the temperature, the motor will stop itself.

STANDARD 4-1-2. If we are given the problem of detection or measurement and it is impossible to change the problem to remove the need for detection or measurement, it is proposed to replace direct operations on the object with operations on its copy or picture.

Example. It might be dangerous to measure the length of a snake. It is safe to measure its length on a photographic image of the snake, and then recalculate the obtained result.

STANDARD 4-1-3. If we are given the problem of measurement and the problem cannot be changed to remove the need for measurement, and it is impossible to use copies or pictures, it is proposed to transform this problem into the a problem of successive detection of changes.

NOTE: Any measurement is carried out with a certain degree of accuracy. Therefore, even if the problem deals with continuous measurement, one can always single out a simple act of measurement involving two successive detections. This makes the problem considerably simpler.

Example. To measure a temperature, it is possible to use a material that changes its color depending on the current value of the temperature. Alternatively, several materials can be used to indicate different temperatures.


STANDARD 4-2-1. If a non-SFM is not easy to detect or measure, the problem is solved by synthesizing a simple or dual SFM with a field at the output. Instead of direct measurement or detection of a parameter, another parameter identified with the field is measured or detected.

Example: To detect a moment when a liquid starts to boil, an electrical current is passed through the liquid. During boiling, air bubbles are formed - they dramatically reduce electrical resistance of the liquid.

STANDARD 4-2-2. If a system (or its part) does not provide detection or measurement, the problem is solved by transition to an internal or external complex measuring SFM, introducing easily detectable additives.

Example. To detect leakage in a refrigerator, a cooling agent is mixed with a luminophore powder.

STANDARD 4-2-3. If a system is difficult to detect or to measure at a given moment of time, and it is impossible to introduce additives in the object, then additives that create an easily detectable and measured field should be introduced in the external environment and changing state of the environment will provide an indication of the state of the object.

Example. To detect wearing of a rotating metal disc contacting with another disk, it is proposed to introduce luminophore into the oil lubricant, which already exists in the system. Metal particles collecting in the oil will reduce luminosity of the oil.

STANDARD 4-2-4. If it is impossible to introduce easily detectable additives in the external environment, these can be obtained in the environment itself, e. g. by decomposing it or by changing the aggregate state of the environment.

NOTE: Specifically, gas or vapor bubbles produced by electrolysis, cavitation or by any other method are often used as additives obtained by decomposing the external environment.

Example. The speed of a water flow in a pipe might be measured by amount of air bubbles resulting from cavitation.


STANDARD 4-3-1. Efficiency of a measuring SFM is enhanced by the use of physical effects.

Example. Temperature of liquid media can be measured by measuring a change of a coefficient of retraction which depends on the value of the temperature.

STANDARD 4-3-2. If it is impossible to detect or measure directly the changes that take place, and if no field can be passed through the system, the problem is to be solved by exciting resonance oscillations (of the whole system or of its part), whose frequency change is an indication of the changes that take place.

Example. To measure the mass of a substance in a container, the container is subjected to mechanically forced resonance oscillations. The frequency of the oscillations depends on the mass of the system.

STANDARD 4-3-3. If no resonance oscillations can be excited in a system, its state can be determined by a change in the natural frequency of the object (external environment) connected with the system under control.

Example. The mass of boiling liquid can be measured by measuring the natural frequency of gas resulting from evaporation.


STANDARD 4-4-1. Efficiency of a measuring SFM is enhanced by using a ferromagnetic substance and a magnetic field.

NOTE: The standard indicates the use of a ferromagnetic substance that is not crushed.

Example. A group of students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCAT) developed a method of measuring speed, direction, time, and operating status of an operating system designed to unwind some type of material from one spool to another spool (Spring 2000 Multidisciplinary Design Project). In order to take mechanical rotations and put them in the form of analog pulses that could be analyzed by either a microprocessor or electronic component through a pulsed tachometer the following detection method was developed. A pulsed tachometer can detect rotations of a rotating shaft that contain a ferromagnetic rotor comprised of iron brushes perpendicular to the axis. The magnet in the pickup sensor creates a magnetic field around the sensor. When the "iron brushes" on the rotor pass through the magnetic field the flux change induces an EMF in a coil sensor. These create analog pulses that can be used to determine operating speed, time, direction, and status.

STANDARD 4-4-2. Efficiency of detection or measurement is enhanced by transition to ferromagnetic SFM's, replacing one of the substances with ferromagnetic particles (or adding ferromagnetic particles), and by detecting or measuring the magnetic field.

Example. In an effort to orient or align numerous objects, ferromagnetic material can be added to the same portion of each object to be aligned. A magnet can then be used to attract the ferromagnetic portion of the object thus orienting or aligning the objects.

STANDARD 4-4-3. If it is required to raise a system's efficiency of detection or measurement by going over to a ferromagnetic SFM, while replacement of the substance with ferromagnetic particles is not allowed, the transition to the feSFM is performed by building a complex ferromagnetic SFM, introducing (or attaching) ferromagnetic additives in the substance.

Example. The addition of iron oxide (a ferromagnetic powder) is now included as a pigment in black ink to validate currency and other negotiable documents. This technology is in continual development as computers and high quality color printers make counterfeiting an elementary process. The magnetic fields from these particles produce signatures that, when read by magnetic sensors, can also be used to determine denominations of currency by vending or change machines.


STANDARD 4-4-4. If it is required to enhance a system’s efficiency of detection or measurement by going over to a feSFM, while introduction of ferromagnetic particles is not allowed, ferromagnetic particles are to be introduced in the external environment.

Example. The discovery of the electron resulted in extreme advances in the chemistry field. In 1927 Wolfgang Pauli developed a formal representation of the electron spin concept. Experimentation in 1967 produced data that indicated that electrons from ferromagnetic particles (Fe, Co, and Ni) were not spin polarized as had been previously theorized. To continue testing a ultrahigh vacuum was constructed where photoemissions of electrons could be performed down to 4.2K and in magnetic fields up to 50kOe. This device obtained strikingly different results: the electrons photemitted from various particles were highly spin polarized. Continued research allowed for the development of spin polarization spectroscopy helping scientists to further understand magnetism. Recent testing utilizing thin ferromagnetic films indicates that the films may be useful in acting as a spin filter similar to plastic foils used with polarized light.

STANDARD 4-4-5. Efficiency of a feSFM measuring system is enhanced by the use of physical effects, such as going through Curie point, Hopkins and Barkhausen effects, magnetoelastic effect, etc.

Example. Diagnosing and forecasting residual life of steel structures is important in determining the safety of large structures. Material magnetic memory (MMM) is effective in the assessment of stressed-strained state of structures. This method envelopes the theory that in zones of stress and strain concentration there are irreversible changes of the magnetic state of ferromagnetic items. Change of residual magnetization in tension, compression, torsion, and cyclic loading of ferromagnetic items is directly related to the maximal acting stress. The operator moves a sensor measuring the residual magnetic field intensity (Hp, A/m), along the weld over the entire perimeter and then transversely to the weld with the amplitude of deviation from the weld edge for 30 to 50 mm towards the base metal of the pipe element. The second operator records in the log book the data on residual magnetization of the metal, namely magnetic field intensity with the plus or minus sign. An abrupt change of the sign and value of Hp points to a concentration of residual stresses along Hp=0 line for a specific section of the welded joint. The main purpose of MMM is detection of the most critical sections and components in the controlled plant, which are characterized by SC zones. After MMM, the traditional methods of non-destructive testing (UT, X-ray, and eddy current inspection, etc.) are used to determine the presence of a particular defect.



STANDARD 4-5-1. Efficiency of a measuring system at any stage of its development is enhanced by transitioning to a measuring bi- or poly-system.

NOTE: For a simple formation of bi- and poly-systems two or more elements are to be combined. The elements to be combined may be substances, fields, substance-field pairs and whole SFM's.

Example. It is difficult to accurately measure the temperature of a small beetle. However, if there are many beetles put together, the temperature can be measured easily.

STANDARD 4-5-2. Measuring systems are developed towards a transition to measuring the derivatives of the function under control. The transition is performed along the following line:

measurement of a function --->

measurement of the first derivative of the function --->

measurement of the second derivative of the function.

Example. Changes of stress in the rock are defined by the speed of changing the electrical resistance of the rock.


Substance-field analysis has been shown to allow the creation of a model that is representative of the system under discussion. Several transformation rules have been presented as well as supportive examples. The 76 standard solutions have been presented as has an elucidation of the class of solutions dedicated to the resolution of problems associated with measuring and detecting (Class 4). The application of these principles is extremely powerful in defeating psychological inertia and increasing the innovative level of the solution (increasing the level of ideality as well).

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