Just One Question: Do you hold any patents?
Lots of patents, but all expired: skid landing gear for helicopters, design of a high-altitude helicopter, true airspeed for re-entry vehicle, Mosaic macrofont for video monitor display. The helicopter skid landing gear was patented around 1950. My title was assistant chief engineer of the Bell Helicopter Group, following service for three years as a project engineer of the Model 47, the first helicopter in the world to be certified for commercial production. Hiller Helicopter presented a competition in 1948, and I worked to design significant enhancements, including the skid landing gear. The improvements reduced weight and costs, and this version became known as Model 47G. It defeated the competition for many years. Helicopters until that point were equipped with wheels with pneumatic tires and pneumo-hydraulic struts to handle the energy of hard landings. Yet helicopters are needed in rough country work, where wheels face the serious hazard of sinking into the earth, causing upset when contacting the earth at even slow speed. We demonstrated, in landing with forward speed on soft earth and boulder-strewn streambeds, that skids provide a safe landing. The novelty for patenting included the use of aluminum cross tubes in place of pneumohydraulic struts to absorb the energy in contact. The cross tubes provided a convenient support for accessory equipment, such as Stokes litters, crop-dusting hoppers, water tanks for firefighting, and grenade launchers. All other helicopter producers utilizing skid landing gear were required to pay Bell a hefty royalty, which was unusual for the industry association overseeing such matters.
—Tom Harriman ’42 Th’43
I invented a product that, although it has never been available commercially, did win a prize of great repute. In 1938 the Disney Co. started to publish Mickey Mouse Magazine, and my parents presented me with a subscription. In one of the early issues the editors held a contest—prizes were offered for the most imaginative “useless inventions.” I entered the contest and was declared a winner, my entry being “Eye-glasses without lenses—for people with perfect eyesight.” I don’t recall if I won first prize, but I was pleased with my award, a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. If I had kept a copy of the magazine—I see on eBay that they sell for as much as $165. If I had kept the sweatshirt—oh, certainly priceless.
—Sam Florman ’46 Th’46
I co-own one patent with General Dynamics on an airborne noise reduction device used on the USS Nautilus in the 1950s.
—John Kennedy ’53 Th’54
I hold about 140 patents having to do with optics, cameras, and digital printers, mostly at Polaroid. I worked there from 1962 until 2001, and many of the products I worked on are still available at antique and second-hand stores. Polaroid cameras and film are considered obsolete, but there is still a market for them and many folks think that instant pictures are magical. Polaroid went bankrupt in 2001 and under new management stopped making film in 2008. Austrian investor Florian Kaps bought the Polaroid film plant in Enschede, the Netherlands, and with the help of 10 ex-Polaroid film engineers started making film again. Much of the extremely complex chemistry had to be re-invented. They now buy old cameras (and sold 30,000 of them last year) and sell the film online.
I once worked on a quirky Polaroid camera project in 1972 called the Big Shot, designed to take only great portrait pictures. It became Andy Warhol’s favorite camera, which he used to help create his artwork. There is now a store in Australia called the Big Shot. The owner buys up old Big Shots, fixes them up, and sells them to Polaroid enthusiasts. He contacted me last year because he saw my name on patents connected with this camera. I was extremely surprised that it is still used after all these years and has a large fan base. The camera now uses a Fuji Instant Film pack and makes quite nice portrait pictures.
—Bruce Johnson ’61 Th’62
When I worked for Texas Instruments I got my first patent on a sequential logic programmable logic array in metal-oxide semiconductor technology. My next patent came when I worked for Sperry Rand Research Center. My patent was on a block-oriented random-access memory in metal-nitride-oxide semiconductor technology (using a gate made from nitride and oxide).
—Dick Spencer ’61, Th’62
I hold one patent on a chemical toilet designed for use in the 1960s in remote camps in the Antarctic. I bet no one can top that for novelty!
I was an NROTC student at Dartmouth, with a one-year deferment of active duty to get an ME at Thayer. My advisor, the late Ed Brown, suggested I study cold weather sanitation issues for a master’s thesis. I discovered that a lot of work on the subject was being done by the Navy, which provided logistics support and infrastructure for the National Science Foundation scientific work in Operation Deep Freeze (U.S. operations in Antarctica). When it came time to go on active duty, I arranged to be assigned to the Naval Civil Engineering Lab in California, which was doing the cold weather sanitation research. A major issue was maintenance on the toilets they were using, complex electromechanical fluid moving systems adapted from airplane toilets. With a 10,000-mile supply chain that only operated six to eight months out of the year, access to spare parts was a big problem. I had to come up with something simple—as few moving parts as possible and limited maintenance and spare parts issues. The result was successfully tested at a Navy base and shortly thereafter, my two years were up and I left the Navy and the project died. The main reason is that the international scientific community decided that for environmental and safety reasons, human waste would no longer be disposed of on the Antarctic continent and it would all be shipped out to New Zealand for treatment and disposal. That set in motion a new approach to management of all kinds of waste, which had previously been just an afterthought.
Having a patent was a very big plus when I looked for my first job.
—Neil Drobny ’62 Th’64
I hold four patents. Three are for wireless broadband local area networks. One, used by AT&T, is for “flip-chip” mounting of semi-conductors (transistors) on interconnection substrates. I founded a radio-frequency integrated circuit (IC) business in 1994 called Endwave. We designed high-power millimeter wave circuits based in gallium arsenide (GaAs). Unfortunately, other than being a transistor, GaAs is a terrible material for other circuit elements. In order to improve the performance of the circuit, we patterned the IC on silicon and flipped the GaAs transistors into the circuit. My flip-chip patent is the basis for this circuit attachment technique. The major use of our circuits was in wireless, high-speed, broadband communications gear (think microwave radios). Three of my patents were various configurations of this wireless network. We worked with all the major wireless equipment providers of the day: Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson, AT&T, Nortel.
—Ed Keible ’65 Th’66
As a research scientist for Xerox I was privileged to work in many areas: optics, computer hardware and software, font design, etc. I hold nine patents: 6714694, “Method for sliding window image processing of associative operators”; 6625306, “Color gamut mapping”; 5557720, “Method of determining whether a document tree is weakly valid”; 4724467, “Light blocking stop for electro-optic line printers”; 4633505, “Character compression encoding for electronic printer and facsimile”; 4483596, “Interface suppression apparatus and method for a linear modulator”; 4405956, “Tracking apparatus for read/write head”; 4355860, “Double pass scanning system”; 4100408, “Signal generator for raster type scanners.” Patent 4355860 is a design patent for a laser printer optical system that Xerox sold in its 8000 line of office products. I was a research scientist working on developing software modeling of optical systems. I wrote a ray-tracing program that also did tolerance analysis. This analysis shows the performance of the optical system if the components are misadjusted or have slight errors in manufacture. We were using laser beams that do not propagate quite like light rays, so the modeling had to take this into account. Xerox launched a laser printer product with this design.
I believe that it is my strength in mathematics that allowed me to see and comprehend the essence of what was happening and is a common thread in many of these patents. I recommend that students master mathematics, physics, and engineering principles, as the current technologies may not be around in the future, but the basic mathematics, physics, and engineering will.
—Sidney Marshall ’65 Th’72
I founded Plastic Technologies Inc. (PTI) 30 years ago and am very proud of the contributions that we continue to make to the world of plastics. We are a technology development company that specializes in plastic packaging, but our patent portfolio includes platform technologies that are useful in a broad range of plastic processing and product applications. Perhaps our most successful patented technology is a small-particle, food-grade packaging pellet (known as LNO), which led to the founding of a second PTI company, Phoenix Technologies Intl., the leading supplier of food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to the industry and to Coca-Cola and Colgate Palmolive.
—Tom Brady ’66 Th’68
I have no patents or inventions that were commercialized. However, I did invent (along with a couple of sailors who worked for me) a far superior way to take photographs through a submarine periscope, which was fairly quickly made obsolete when they started building cameras and video cameras directly into the periscope. Now the whole crew can see what the periscope sees via digital high-definition technology.
Forty-five years ago, I was a naval officer serving on the USS Scamp and responsible for photography. We developed a way to use the periscope as the lens of a single-lens reflex camera instead of using a camera with a lens to shoot a photo through the periscope’s optics. It had better light utilization and the system could be lowered down the periscope’s well if necessary, which meant it was faster and safer to use. You can make your own guesses as to what we were taking pictures of. Attached is an unclassified example. [See photo below.]
—Clint Harris ’69 Th’70
I am inventor or coinventor on 26 patents issued between 1976 and today. The more recent and most valuable ones relate to chlorine dioxide and a new product that allows chlorine dioxide to be shipped and stored commercially for the first time. Older patents, which have mostly been allowed to lapse or have expired, are on various technologies ranging from cryogenic freezers to gas-flow control systems to quality-control techniques for blow-molding plastics to gas atmospheres for transporting vegetables, and many others. My earlier patents were generated over 25 years while I was working for Air Products and Chemicals Inc. There, I had roles ranging from development engineer to director of applied research and development and business area manager for a $250-million business. My more recent patents (related to chlorine dioxide) were produced while I was working for startup company CDG. I was president and CEO of CDG for the first eight years. I left to found other companies and follow a career in consulting. Recently I returned to CDG as an advisor. I have some patent applications that have not yet been granted or denied that resulted from work I did for Quantum Confined Ltd., where I worked as president.
—Tom McWhorter ’69 Th’70
I applied for a patent in the United Kingdom with two coinventors for “Methods and apparatus for making measurements on fluids produced from underground formations.” It was an electric wireline-conveyed combination electric submersible pump and production logging tool to test multi-zone, low-pressure completed reservoirs. The patent was never granted because a search by the patent office showed someone had a blanket patent on anything having to do with measurements downhole, etc. We did, however, cobble together a working prototype that was able to do what we expected.
—Steve Askey ’76 Th’77
I have two patents. I was coinventor of a server enclosure assigned to SnowShore Networks: “Electronics enclosure,” D465,465. I was also inventor of a key holder assigned to Illinois Tool Works, “Selectively mountable article holding fastener,” 4,397,438. Neither was a great commercial success, but I was pleasantly surprised recently in the hardware store in Shelter Island, N.Y., to find an adhesive-backed cord routing clip that I designed at Illinois Tool Works in the early 1980s still being sold. Thirty-plus years isn’t a bad run!
—Mike Chapman ’76 Th’77
I am listed as an inventor on two patents for work I did for IBM as a contractor supporting the speech recognition research team. IBM places a high value on patents, encourages PhD researchers and support staff to propose patent ideas, and retains control of the resulting patents. I worked on “System and method for control of lights, signals, alarms using sound detection.” I also worked on “Natural language interaction with large databases.”
—Bill Ablondi ’77 Th’80
I spent more than 32 years at IBM developing electronic design automation tools, primarily for logic synthesis, static timing analysis, clock tree synthesis, power analysis, and design optimization. IBM encourages employees to disclose potentially patentable ideas, and I did so frequently from 1985 until I retired in 2014. As a result, I am sole inventor or coinventor of 98 issued U.S. patents, and I believe I have 19 other U.S. patent applications pending. All of these were assigned to IBM. Many of the timing analysis-related patents were the foundation for IBM’s Eins-Timer incremental timing analyzer, which was used by IBM application-specific integrated circuit customers until the business was sold to GlobalFoundries last July. They are also in use through cross license by Synopsys in its PrimeTime static timing analyzer, which is probably the most widely used tool of that sort in the industry. Other patents were used in IBM’s physical design automation tool for logical/physical design automation, its ClockDesigner clock tree synthesis tool, and its EinsPower power analysis tool. I also served as a member and chair of IBM’s invention disclosure review board for Economic Development Administration inventions.
—David Hathaway ’78 Th’80
My awarded U.S. patents and patents pending: “Methods and apparatus for simulating risk tolerance and associated adversary costs in a distributed business process,” 8,862,454; “Method for differentiating duplicate or similarly named disjoint localities within a state or other principal geographic unit of interest,” 7,831,382; “Map database having vectors for determining destinations, and vector determination method,” 8,655,590; “Locality indexes and method for indexing localities,” filed; “Map database having address points for determining destinations,” filed; “System and method for differentiating duplicate addresses in a locality,” filed.
Within the boring title “Locality indexes and method for indexing localities” is a lifesaving invention I developed while director of geo-coding technologies and services at TomTom. There are four different “2 Adams St.” locations in Boston. When asked, mapping software will either simply pick one answer or will return all four distinguished by either zip code or county name, which are not useful to most travelers in the United States. The essence of this patent is that it allows mapping software to distinguish duplicate addresses by the smallest containing unique known area. So when asked for “2 Adams St.” in Boston, the user will see the address by area, such as “2 Adams St., Charlestown, MA.” This simple association prevents ambulances from being sent to the right address in the wrong town. It also prevents people using navigation devices from mistakenly doing the same.
—Michael Geilich ’79 Th’82
I received one U.S. patent, 4,406,606, for “Apparatus for producing soil building blocks.” The idea resulted from my BE thesis for Dart-Ram, a compressed-earth block-making machine that I developed under the direction of Professor Francis Kennedy. After I graduated, Prof. Kennedy had two students in later years do further development of the machine. The machine was tested in Guatemala in 1984 by Habitat for Humanity and was used to build four houses there. Issues with maintainability have limited its commercial adoption.
—Harry Sangree ’79 Th’80
I hold two patents: “On-chip test circuit for evaluating an on-chip signal using an external test signal,” 6163862; and “Fault identification by voltage potential signature,” 6252417. Both are incorporated into IBM chips.
—Ted Cooley ’82 Th’88
I hold no patents, but in 1988 I worked on a project with DuPont to build a prototype of a laser imager for medical images that went on to become a DuPont product.
—Steve Shustack ’84 Th’87
I hold only two patents, neither of which became a commercial product. One (5,831,736) is for making an image of a microscopic surface. The other (7,444,014) is to collect a microscopic image with high resolution and long depth of focus.
—José Angel Conchello Th’85
I have 15 U.S. patents and two patents pending. They deal with a variety of technologies, including a surgical tool for microperforation of bone and ligament tissue during knee ligament surgery, a rehabilitation tool for increasing bone density and ligament strength, protective equipment for preventing fractures (focused on preventing wrist fractures in snowboarding), methods and systems for monitoring head impacts in sports (multiple patents), methods and systems for monitoring physiological parameters of sports participants (multiple patents), methods and systems for providing dynamic perturbations to individuals to prevent falls in the elderly and prevent injuries in athletes, materials and system for attenuating impact energy (multiple patents). Several products are on the market either by my company, Simbex, or its partners.
The patents include “Instrument and Method For Surgical Stimulation of Connective Tissue,” 5,961,535; “Vibrational Stimulator,” 6,620,117; “System and Method for Measuring the Linear and Rotational Acceleration of a Body Part,” 6,826,509; “Power Management of a System for Measuring the Acceleration of a Body Part,” 7,526,389; “Dynamic Body Protector,” 7,837,640; “Fall Prevention Training System Using a Dynamic Perturbation Platform,” 7,980,856; “Measuring Acceleration of a Body Part,” filed; “System and Method for Monitoring a Physiological Parameter of Persons Engaged in Physical Activity,” filed; “Training System and Method Using a Dynamic Perturbation Platform, Continuation of U.S. Patent 7,980,856,” 8,246,354; “Impact Energy Attenuation System,” 8,524,388; “System and Method for Evaluating and Providing Treatment to Sports Participants,” 8,548,768; “System and Method for Measuring the Linear and Rotational Acceleration of a Body Part, Continuation of U.S. Patent 6,826,509,” 8,554,509; “Training System and Method Using a Dynamic Perturbation Platform, Continuation-in-Part of U.S. Patent 7,980,856,” 8,622,747; “System for Monitoring a Physiological Parameter of Players Engaged in a Sporting Activity,” 8,797,165; “Material for Attenuating Impact Energy System, Continuation-in-Part of U.S. Patent 8,524,388,” 8,986,798; “Impact Energy Attenuation Module, Continuation-in-Part of U.S. Patent 8,524,388,” 9,023,441; “Impact Energy Attenuation System, Continuation of U.S. Patent 8,524,388,” 9,034,441.
—Rick Greenwald Th’88
I have one U.S. patent, “Carbon management for sourcing and logistics,” 8,346,595, issued in 2013. I was working at IBM as a senior management consultant. We were identifying the amount of carbon in a supply chain for a client. Since the largest amount of carbon was in logistics, we focused on developing a model that would allow the client to not only measure the amount of carbon developed through logistics operations, but also to perform what-if scenarios to decrease carbon and what the impact would be on other business drivers (i.e., inventory, production).
—Chad Boucher ’95 Th’96
I have been awarded 10 patents, with the earliest filed as a result of my PhD work at Thayer (1992-97) and assigned to Dartmouth. I spent part of the time as a research assistant in the Interactive Media Lab (IML) at Dartmouth Medical School under Dr. Joe Henderson. We began investigating the (then) novel idea of distributing interactive multimedia content on the Web. IML’s partners were keen to leverage the Internet to reach a broader audience with our content, which was directed at healthcare providers and patients. After successfully posting a few videos, we realized that there were no effective means for communicating and transacting copyright in the digital, networked environment, and my research was born. I developed a novel approach to associating rights metadata with digital objects and for transacting permissions, which became the basis of my initial patent application (1995) and the core IP for NetRights, which I cofounded with some local partners, some with Dartmouth ties.
A big issue for us was that many decision-makers in the publishing industries weren’t quite ready to talk about the digital, networked environment that was about to emerge! My partners and I were evangelizing a rights-management model based partly on the assumption that “mashups” were going to happen, people would want to do rights “right,” but stakeholders were instead asking, “Tell me about that Web thing again?” In short we were way, way ahead of the curve. Fortunately, enough people saw value that we found angel investors, kept marching on, and ultimately were acquired by Digimarc Inc., for our IP if not for the specific code or broader vision. Digimarc and its licensees continue to manage the Dartmouth and NetRights-related patents.
I ended up staying in the Upper Valley and in 1997 helped start a spinoff of Yankee Book Peddler Inc. named Yankee Rights Management, which created Copyright Direct, the first fully real-time, web-based rights transaction service. It was a technical success but had difficulty catching on because purveyors of early digital content had not yet gone digital with their record keeping. Around this time I coined the phrase, “Metadata is the lifeblood of e-commerce,” which is still referenced in certain circles.
In late 1998 Hewlett-Packard approached me as they began to enter digital publishing, and in late 1999 I went to work full-time for Hewlett-Packard Labs, reporting to a lab based in Bristol, U.K., and working from Norwich, Vt. I then joined the Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2010, first as a research project manager, contributor, and guest lecturer, and more recently as an instructor. I am also now affiliated with the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Application.
—John Erickson Th’97
I hold three U.S. patents and have two U.S. patent applications and two European patent applications pending. The granted patents are for a spinal interbody device (a spine implant), an interbody fusion device and method of operation (a different type of spine implant, plus the associated instrumentation), and a surgical retractor for creating an opening for surgery, holding that open, and moving it around. The pending patent applications are for an additional kit of surgical instruments to be used in conjunction with the retractor and a novel surgical method of using the retractor. Engineering and patents are both things I’m passionate about. I spent 15 years as an engineer, working my way up at various companies from entry level to director of research and development. I went to law school at night and recently made the switch to being a patent attorney.
—Hugh Pfabe ’98 Th’99
I am a digital designer at Analog Devices and have one patent so far: “Apparatus and method for image decimation for image sensors,” 8749656. This is a method to do image decimation in the analog domain on image sensors that have a color filter. Doing simple averaging of adjacent pixels of the same color creates odd image artifacts. This method weights the averaging to remove these artifacts. It is done in the analog domain to save the time and power of converting all of the raw data to the digital domain first.
—Ned Guthrie ’00 Th’01
Having worked at IDEO, a product design consultancy, for the last 10 years, I have touched a range of products. I helped Lilly come up with a novel injection mechanism for folks with chronic conditions to self-inject at home. I helped a transcutaneous vaccination technology make its way into production for the startup Iomai. I helped Steelcase come up with innovative, people-focused furniture designs for hospitals. My favorite products I worked on that have hit the market are several devices for Tria Beauty, as well as a noninvasive temperature measurement system for 3M called SpotOn. Thanks, Thayer, for teaching me how to balance the need for innovation alongside the need to execute and ship product!
—Brian Mason ’03 Th’05
My first patent, 6996241, came about from work that I did with Professor Laura Ray. A PhD student of hers had developed a novel feed-forward control algorithm for performing active noise cancellation in headphones. Professor Ray hired me the summer before my BE year to investigate adding feedback noise cancellation to the system. To our surprise, we found that the performance of the combined system was greater than the sum of its parts. Implementing this combined system in portable electronics became the basis of the ENGS 190/290 [now called ENGS 89/90] project the following year. It also became the basis of a spinoff company, Sound Innovations, that attempted to commercialize the technology for the military. My second patent, 8956421, stemmed from work I did at DEKA Research & Development. We had been tasked by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a better prosthetic arm, which came to be known as the Luke Arm. Part of my contribution was developing an advanced socket—the custom-molded interface between the prosthesis and the residual limb—that combined pneumatic elements in order to grip the wearer tighter or looser. The patent, shared with some of my coworkers, covers the design of such a socket and the tiny pneumatic controller I built for it. Although the Luke Arm received FDA-clearance and is approaching a commercial launch, the “dynamic socket” didn’t make it that far.
I also have several applications in progress. The recognition of a patent is nice, but is small compared to the satisfaction of delivering something truly useful to the world.
—Alex Streeter ’03 Th’05
The strength of a Thayer education is not in book learning, but more so in the approach that is taught to navigate one’s way to a successful solution when handed a completely foreign problem. Professor John Collier’s ENGS 21 course and the old 190/290 [now called ENGS 89/90] series were such great preparation for real-life engineering and for a career in product development.
I worked on a range of products as a consultant at Synapse Product Development in Seattle. I designed the mechanicals for power supply systems for Ingersoll Rand so they could be highly configurable (54 different possible layouts for the panel). As far as I know it’s still being produced in the tens of thousands per year. I designed the internals and a lot of the trickier aesthetic details for the TomTom SportWatch GPS powered by Nike. The implementation of the GPS antenna into the watch was one of the harder aspects, since its size and radio-frequency (RF) properties made maintaining a compelling fit, feel, and aesthetic very challenging. I went through many iterations with the Nike industrial design team to come to a product that looked good and was functional, and we won several innovation awards at that year’s International Consumer Electronics Show. For the Nike+ basketball and training shoes, I designed the in-shoe puck and aided in the design of the sensor array that allowed for real-time footbed pressure tracking. The biggest challenges were in packaging, sealing, and RF performance. The puck needed to be as small as possible to not be felt in the shoe, but also had some ambitious specifications for battery life, antenna performance, and sealing that were challenging to package. We produced hundreds of thousands of them at very high yields and with good performance, so the design and engineering succeeded.
Currently, I am engineering program manager for the Nima Portable Gluten Sensor. There isn’t anything like our device out on the market. Currently, if you are trying to avoid certain proteins in prepared foods, your only tools are ingredient lists and trust in waitstaff’s knowledge of the food being served at a restaurant. We’re trying to build the first consumer-grade tool for people trying to avoid gluten that empowers them to quickly know what is in the food they are eating. A lot of chemistry and design is going into making that a reality, and we are also developing tests for dairy and peanut for future generations of the device. Ultimately our goal is to make food transparent to the consumer.
—Joe Horrell Th’04
I do hold a patent that was a spin-off from my graduate studies at Dartmouth. The patent is for a chemical process related to the conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. I don’t have any products available commercially. My advisor was Charles Wyman and we were looking for ways to make cellulosic ethanol more economical.
—Todd Lloyd Th’05
I am one of a number of names on two of ATDynamics’ patents (with Jeff Grossmann ’06 and Chuck Horrell ’00 Th’01, who should get most of the credit for that work): the WheelShield and SuperSpare. They are products for tractor trailers. The WheelShield improves aerodynamics, while the SuperSpare, the product I worked on more, is a device to carry a spare of the “new” double-wide tires many trucks use.
For my 190/290 [now called ENGS 89/90] project, I worked with Tilting Motor Works to design a speed-controlled pivot lock for a three-wheeled bike. The company has brought to market a TiltLock technology that meets the same need as our work. I don’t know how much of this final product is from our research and development—I worked with David Drennan Th’09, Adam Danaher Th’08, and Kyle Lobisser Th’08 on this project—but it’s the closest I have to something I worked on that’s on the market!
—Laura Weyl Th’08
I hold one patent as coinventor with Professor Elsa Garmire and Dr. Jonathan Bessette: “Systems and methods that detect changes in incident optical radiation,” 8174253. With this design, voltage is applied across one or more active areas of a detector while the incident optical radiation illuminates the active areas. Current is sensed across one or more of the active areas, a change in the current being indicative of the changes in incident optical radiation. I also invented a patent-pending product verification service now available in six countries: Sproxil.
—Ashifi Gogo Th’09
I currently have a patent pending in Germany (PA2013215074) with BMW for a plastic clip design for use in the auto industry. (I am section manager for total vehicle validation and am working at BMW’s production facility in South Carolina.) In order to connect with sensors and lights in the headliner of a vehicle, wires must be routed through the tight A-pillar area, next to the windshield. Designers, however, prefer to keep this area as small as possible to increase visibility for the driver. This restriction, coupled with the tight tolerances and manual production process involved with producing a wiring harness, led to high rework costs and damaged parts at our production facility. My design eliminates the tolerances between clips—and therefore the risk of excess material that could be damaged during installation—by simply combining several clips into one. This design led to lower production costs due to fewer parts and easier assembly.
—Matt Wallach Th’09
I have a patent pending with Apple Inc.: “Tone detection for inter-operability testing,” filed in 2015. It covers a method to use signal processing to decode audio signals from wireless payment devices, such as for ApplePay. We needed an automated method of making sure our device works with a large number of third-party electronic payment devices.
—Adam Dohner ’10 Th’11
I have the U.S. patent, 8,977,340: “System and method for collection and use of magnetic resonance data and microwave data to identify boundaries of interest,” with Thayer Professors Paul Meaney and Keith Paulsen. It is a system and method for detecting permittivity and conductivity boundaries within a high-resolution spatial image of a material. The method may be employed for 2-D or 3-D image reconstruction.
—Amir Golnabi Th’11
I have a pending patent application for “Mixed redox couple electrodes for rate capability and overdischarge protection.” It has to do with including materials of different voltages in the same battery electrode to artificially bias current to less-accessible (higher-resistance) regions of the battery electrode. Battery electrodes tend to be assumed to conduct current evenly, but this is not true, and we were seeing premature failures of batteries from a local company due to this problem. I’m currently a PhD student at the University of Florida.
—Michael Kellar Th’11
Spiral-E filed two patents from ENGS 21 for a vacuum suction tissue-stabilizer designed to prevent tissue damage during endoscopic surgery.
—Alison Stace-Naughton ’11 Th’13
I am a coinventor of “Systems and methods for converting biomass to biocrude via hydrothermal liquefaction,” 20150099275, which details methods for converting sludge into biocrude via a process called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL). It was a part of the master’s research that I just completed at the University of Texas, Austin. HTL is the process of heating and pressurizing an aqueous biomass slurry to 200° to 375° C and 2,200 to 3,200 psi in order to convert the biomass into an energy-dense bio-oil phase. I conducted batch experiments on sludge and biosolids that were taken at various points in the biosolids management process in order to determine how various types of sludge/biosolids, reaction temperatures, heating rates, and solids percentages affected the amount and quality of the resulting biocrude. I also designed and constructed a continuous system that could demonstrate the type of system that would actually be scaled up and used commercially. My experimental results were used to help decide which of the processes in the patent would be the most economically viable.
I just started a job in Minneapolis, Minn., at HVAC company Daikin. I will be on the R&D team focusing on combustion and heat transfer as we develop new products.
—Joey Anthony ’12 Th’13
I am an inventor on three issued patents: 8,826,733, “Sensored prosthetic component and method”; 8,720,270, “Prosthetic component for monitoring joint health”; and 8,707,782, “Prosthetic component for monitoring synovial fluid and method.” They were all related to a prosthetic component, which includes electronic circuitry and sensors to measure a parameter of the muscular-skeletal system, suitable for long-term implantation. I believe they are currently under commercial development but yet not available. Fellow Thayer alumni John Keggi ’12, Natalie Burkhard ’12, and Phil Henson ’11 are coinventors on these.
—Noah Bonnheim Th’12
This patent is still pending, but I am listed as the primary inventor: “Methods and systems for input to an interactive audiovisual device.” It’s an optical pointer device that can include an energy source compartment, a light-emitting diode (LED), and a timer circuit capable of modulating a current driving the LED.
—Peter Williams Th’12
I have one patent application that Professor Jifeng Liu and I applied for as coinventors, “Multifunctional Nanostructured Metal-Rich Metal Oxides.” We were working on a method to make metal-rich metal oxide thin films to improve light trapping in devices such as solar cells while simultaneously improving electrical conductivity (for efficiency) and lowering the materials processing temperature so it is manufacturable with temperature-sensitive materials. Thin films such as these are typically the top layer on solar panels, and are also on building windows, oven windows, etc., to improve thermal management. The method that we stumbled upon does a number of things quite well. Typically in solar cells you need multiple layers—a conductive layer, a light-trapping layer, and an antireflective layer—above your solar absorber to function well. The method we developed enables a single layer of thin films with all of these functions—we call it a multifunctional thin film. Furthermore, the processing technique is comparable with wide-spread, industry-standard methods, such as sputtering. The functional properties and low processing requirements of the thin films are comparable with state-of-the-art materials. Photovoltaics are one high-profile application this technique can be applied to. Some of the materials we have made could also have important niche applications, such as thermophotovoltaics, which can convert waste heat into electricity, or semitransparent electronic devices.
I am in my second year as a PhD student at Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science, working on aqueous organic batteries for large-scale energy storage. Just as renewable energy generation is a booming technology space, storing energy from these intermittent sources is also an exciting area of research.
—Drew Wong ’12 Th’14
I do have patent, 8948849, which was licensed for a year but is not currently licensed or used in any commercial products. I was working with Professor Solomon Diamond on a device to simultaneously record and monitor adult subjects with electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). The patent describes the device we designed to hold 65 EEG electrodes (electrical terminals) and 64 NIRS optodes (optical terminals) in contact with the scalp. The device is an expandable structure of telescopic arms that were assembled in a hemisphere to expand and contract in order to fit a wide range of adult head sizes. The structure holds the terminals in contact with the scalp while accurately and precisely following placement standards.
Currently, I am working at ZOLL Medical in the advanced development team. We are responsible for research and development of medical devices in the resuscitation space, primarily aimed at assisting medical personnel during cardiac arrest emergencies.
—Paolo Giacometti Th’13
I have three filed patents. The oldest patent, “Miniaturized cardiopulmonary bypass circuit for a mouse model,” was for our class project in ENGS 57/169 in 2012. I worked on it with classmates Jay Vincelli Th’13 and Stephanie Wolf ’12, Professor Ryan Halter Th’06, and DHMC cardiothoracic surgeon James Yun, our project sponsor. The invention was basically a miniature, 3-D-printed blood oxygenation chamber and pulsatile pump that would be used to put a mouse under for cardiopulmonary bypass; this would allow for studies on side effects. The next patent, “Apparatus and methods for structured light scatteroscopy,” was filed soon after I started grad school in the fall of 2013. For this I worked with Thayer Professors Venkatramanan Krishnaswamy, Brian Pogue, Keith Paulsen Th’84, and Jonathan Elliott. This is an imaging technique that can directly capture contrast from light scattering rather than absorption. The research was published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics. The next year we developed a way to quantify the amount of backscatter light, which led to our most recent patent application, “Structured-light imaging systems and methods for determining sub-diffuse scattering parameters,” and an article in Biomedical Optics Express.
—David “Bo” McClatchy ’13