40 Principles of TRIZ and the Electric Power Grid

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    By Randall Marin and Rob van den Tillaart


    While browsing through the Real Innovation forum Rob van den Tillaart came across a question asked by Randall Marin:

    "Does anyone know if an article about the 40 principles applied to electrical power, electrical power distribution or pure electrical engineering has been written? Thanks."

    The short question resulted in multiple, lengthier answers and the dialogue accumulated led to this article. The authors do not have a job in the electrical grid industry; however, they have enough common knowledge, watched enough movies, read enough newspapers and magazines to have a mental image of how the electrical grid works and especially how it can fail. Furthermore, the authors use electric appliances on a daily basis.

    Using their memory and fantasy they imagined real problems of the grid and showed how the 40 inventive principles could be applied to solve these problems. Sometimes the authors worked the other way around, using a principle to generate ideas and then looked for a problem. For example, while formulating a problem for principle "X" the solutions by means of principle "Y" suddenly appeared; in the end they worked both ways.

    The authors applied principle 16 in their problem solving. If a good example for a principle could not be found the authors happily settled for less and sometimes they did not find an example at all (as a result the example is left open to challenge the reader).


    The applications of the 40 inventive principles that are mentioned in this article are imagined by the authors unless stated otherwise. Other people, however, might have formulated similar or identical solutions and they might have patented them, in this case it is advised to do a patent search.


    This article shows that the 40 inventive principles of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) are generic; therefore, they can be applied to the domain of the electrical power grid. One point of attention is the fact that the principles must not always be taken too literally. Use them figuratively or as a metaphor instead. This will increase the usability of the principles and will sometimes double the number of applications.1

    The 40 Inventive Principles

    Segmentation: Dividing the system into smaller parts.

    To improve the reliability of a power grid an individual can use segmentation in several ways:


    Separate (extract) an interfering part or property from a technical system or single out the necessary part (or property).

    Local Quality

    Change a system from uniform to non-uniform. Make each part of a technical system fulfill a different, yet useful function.


    Change the shape from symmetrical to asymmetrical or vice versa.


    Merge functionality or do multiple operations in parallel.

    Parallel systems can be found on many levels.


    Make a part or object perform multiple functions; eliminate the need for other parts.

    The high towers of the power grid for high voltage electricity lines can be made larger; therefore, every tower can carry another functional module.

    Not every tower should include all of this; however, it offers extra services. The power lines can be used for high frequency communication signals.

    Nesting (Matrioshka)

    Place similar objects into another (recursion).

    Voltage within voltage:

    Tower within a tower:

    Cable within a cable:

    Lamp within a lamp:


    To counter the weight of a system, merge it with other objects that provide lift.

    What is the weight of a power grid?

    One typical problem is winter storm towers can be blown over. And if a tower is blown over, often a whole row of towers go flat because the lines pull on the next tower. This is because they have a fixed connection. If the fixed connection is replaced with one that is based on a counterweight (it hangs in the tower) then this tower cannot pull the next one by means of the lines. This could reduce the amount of towers that fall like dominos.

    Prior Counteraction

    Pre-load a counter tension to an object to compensate excessive and undesirable stress.

    Prior Action

    Perform a required change of an object (either fully or partially). Carry out all or part of the required action in advance.

    Power lines do break:

    Towers do fall in storms:

    Something new?

    Cushion in Advance

    Prepare emergency means beforehand to compensate for the relatively low reliability of an object.


    In a potential field limit position changes.

    Do it in Reverse

    Invert actions to solve the problem.


    Replace linear parts with curved parts, flat surfaces with spherical surfaces and cube shapes with ball shapes or the other way around.


    Allow or design the characteristics of an object, external environment or process to change to optimal or to find an optimal operating condition.

    Partial or Excessive Action

    When 100 percent is difficult to reach, slightly less or more may be sufficient.

    Transition Into a New Dimension

    Move an object into another dimension or add an extra dimension.


    Use oscillation.

    Periodic Action

    Use periodic or pulsating actions instead of continuous action.

    Continuity of Useful Actions

    Try to perform 100 percent all the time, eliminate idle time.

    Rushing Through

    Conduct certain process steps at high speeds or skip steps.

    Skip the power-cable:

    Convert Harm Into Benefit

    Eliminate a harmful action by adding another harmful action.

    Generate electricity results in the waste heat of the system. Reuse this waste heat in many ways.

    Generating electricity often results in excess carbon dioxide.

    Generating electricity often results in electric noise due to static.

    High towers (seen as "polluting the horizon") can be reused as a fire tower. Add a rotating Webcam or a heat sensitive device to monitor the area.


    Introduce feedback into the system.

    Feedback can take several forms in an electric system:


    Use an intermediate carrier or process.

    Self Service

    Make an object become self-serving.


    Use multiple and simpler inexpensive objects instead of expensive ones.

    Dispose Inexpensive Short Living Objects

    Replace an expensive object with multiple inexpensive objects, compromising certain qualities.

    Replacement of a Mechanical System

    Replace a mechanical means with a sensory.

    What is mechanical in the electric domain?

    The following are more thoughts on the word "sensory."

    Pneumatic or Hydraulic Construction

    Use gas and liquid parts instead of solid parts.

    Flexible Films or Thin Membranes

    Isolate object from the environment.

    Porous Materials

    Make an object porous or add porous elements.

    Changing the Color

    Change the transparency or color of an object or its external environment.


    Make objects interact with a given object of the same material.

    Rejecting and Regenerating Parts

    Discard portions of an object that have fulfilled their functions or modify these directly during operation; restore consumable parts of an object directly in operation.

    Transformation Properties

    Change the degree of flexibility.

    Phase Transition

    Use phenomena that occur during phase transitions.

    Thermal Expansion

    Use thermal expansion or contraction of materials.

    Accelerated Oxidation

    Replace common air with oxygen enriched air.

    This is not ideal with electricity. Oxygen enriched air causes fires easier, especially when there are electric sparks.

    Inert Environment

    Replace a normal environment with an inert one.

    Composite Materials

    Change from uniform to composite (multiple) materials.


    This article shows that much of the The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) and its 40 principles can be used in the electric domain. All applications mentioned in this article are not top inventions, however, there are several worth elaborating on. During this exercise it became clear that some principles (32 through 40) are more difficult to map on the electric domain than others. The author hopes other people are challenged to fill in these gaps.


    1. Electric Power Transmission, Wikipedia, January 2010.
    2. Solar Furnace, Wikipedia, December 2009.

    About the Authors:

    Randall Marin is founding partner and technical director of Innovacion Sistematica S.A., based in Costa Rica, Central America - a small company in the business of worldwide industry problem solving, consulting and training. He holds a bachelor degree in Electronics Engineering and is a MATRIZ-certified Level 3 specialist. He has worked for 15 years in the high-tech RF and microprocessor industries and has 20-plus years of industry experience. Marin has developed a number of non-disclosure agreement protected inventions, is a regular conference speaker and has written several articles about on-the-field problem solving, systematic innovation, applied mathematics, optics and laser. He can be reached via http://www.innovacionsistematica.com. Contact Randall Marin at randallmarin (at) ismarin.net.

    Rob van den Tillaart holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science and worked almost 20 years at Oce Technologies as a concept developer. He holds 20 patents and in 2006 wrote the article titled: "TRIZ and Software - 40 Principle Analogies, a Sequel" for The TRIZ Journal. He is currently in the market for new opportunities. Contact Rob van den Tillaart at robtillaart (at) gmail.com.

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