Ghanaian chemical engineer and innovator, Dr. Thomas Mensah, has said his innovations are being used by technology giants including Facebook, Google, Paypal among others.
Dr. Mensah, while working for American company, Corning Glass Works, was able to help improve and commercialize a fiber optic technology the company had been working on for 15 years without success.
Prior to the invention, copper wires were used as a major channel for data transmission and networking workstations.
Recounting his exploits on an Accra based radio station, Dr. Thomas said while working for Corning, he was given a task to improve the fiber optics project which he did tirelessly to birth the technology which he described as “the most important invention in the 21st century.”
“I didn’t know that the impact was going to be big like this. All I knew was that there were four inventors, three whites and me. And they said, Dr. Mensah, we’ve come all the way with the glass part, but we think you are the only one who can do the part that will move us to the industrial stage. That was the challenge I had, and I worked on it for every day. I was so focused on solving that problem, and what I did was to use the technology I had applied somewhere else whereby when you melt the glass and you are pulling it like toffee to be glass strand, you have to put a coating on it immediately to protect. So the ability to put a coating on it while you are pulling it was their limitation. They couldn’t pull it more than 2 meters per second. So for 15 years it stayed in the lab till I got there and the problem was handed over to me.”
“The question was how do we move this from the laboratory into factories, manufacturing, so that we can move into the global market? That was the problem I solved. It was a global problem. Until then, fiber optics were available in the lab, and they were making it in two meters per second. So the lasers that are transmitted along this fiber is sending the Facebook pictures, Instagram, the entire social media experience is going through this laser base fiber optics. This is really what goes through the world,” he added.
He said when people are “sending Facebook pictures, YouTube videos, your emails, tweets; everything is going down this [fiber optic] glass and it travels at milliseconds. In other words, you can sit here to upload Youtube videos, someone is viewing in the US or China in few seconds because of that technology.”
The inventor said, although he did not envision the huge impact the fiber optic project will make in the technology space and the world at large, he said most of his inventions and ideas he espoused in books he’s authored have been adopted by multi-million dollar technology giants to expand.
“…I have four books on innovation. The first one is fiber optic engineering, it’s used all over the world. So those are sold and you get money out of it. My latest book is called nanotechnology commercialization.”
About Dr. Thomas Mensah
Dr. Thomas had his secondary and tertiary education in Ghana, and managed to secure a scholarship to further his education abroad.
Dr. Mensah’s works relates to the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology.
He has 14 patents, 7 of which were awarded within a period of six years, and he was inducted into the US National Academy of Inventors in 2015.
He served as Editor-in-Chief of the international textbook Nanotechnology Commercialization published by AIChE and John Wiley & Sons. The book is aimed at moving Nanotechnology from the laboratory environment to the global marketplace.
He currently has developed a smart watch which he calls “Hug Watch.” According to him, Hug Watch can change TV stations by serving as a remote control, also makes and receives calls.
Dr. Thomas Mensah granted the interview on the back of a series of lectures he is expected to deliver at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) from November 22 to 25, 2017 dubbed RP Baffour Lectures.
He will also be receiving an Honorary Doctorate, (D.Sc Honoraris Causa) from the university after the lectures.