Lonnie George Johnson 1949 -
What do you get when you mix a rocket scientist with fun in the sun? Easy to use high-pressure device that can shoot water hundreds of feet. These high-pressure devices are more commonly known as the Super Soaker.
Super Soakers or children’s water guns, revolutionized childhood summer parties. Rocket scientist (nuclear engineer to be specific) Lonnie Johnson, is the world famous inventor of the Super Soaker and founder and CEO of Johnson Battery Technologies (“JBT”), ‘a battery engineering company that develops custom batteries for the government and private industry.’
At Tuskegee University, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a Master’s degree in nuclear engineering. After graduating from Tuskegee, Johnson worked for the U.S. Air Force in Strategic Air Command, where his contributions helped create the Stealth Bomber.
Johnson left Strategic Air Command to join NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he’d assist on the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn.
When Johnson wasn’t engineering military jets or spaceships, he worked on long-term personal projects. His top project involved water-based heat pumps. It was this work that enabled him to discover the technology for the water gun. He completed the water gun and sold it to the Larami Corporation in 1989. The Super Soaker (renamed after “Power Drencher" failed to market) won dozens of awards including Outdoor Toy of Year.
At JBT, Johnson “spearheads development of the new solid-state lithium-metal battery.” According to JBT, “The solid-state battery can operate at very high temperatures while protecting against fire and explosion…” Johnson is also responsible for inventing the “Johnson Thermoelectrochemical Converter (JTEC), an advanced heat engine,” that can purportedly “convert heat into electricity with twice the efficiency of current methods.”
Johnson was inducted into the state of Alabama’s Engineering Hall of Fame, in 2011. Though JTEC may be overshadowed by the popularity of the Super Soaker, its impact on green technology will set the new standard.