BY Theodora Aidoo, 12:30pm March 12, 2020,

Thomas Mensah: the pioneer of fiber optics and nanotechnology

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Dr. Thomas Mensah, a nanotechnology expert and Ghana’s technology icon, is a pioneer in fiber optics manufacturing and communications systems.

He has contributed immensely to the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology. Fiber-optic communication is the use of light pulses to transmit data through cables from one place to another.

The Ghanaian-American engineer’s contribution to the process of making fiber optic cables has enhanced the cost-efficiency of producing those cables, paving the way for a much greater degree of fiber optics technologies at work in our world.

Mensah was born in 1950 in Kumasi, Ghana. He could read newspapers and speak French fluently and was the main contact person between his father’s business and french clients. He also won different levels of the National French Contest (Le Grand Concours) between 1968 and 1970.

Whilst in high school, Mensah excelled in science and math and went on to study chemical engineering at the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in Ghana graduating in 1974.

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He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then studied chemical engineering at the University of Science and Technology at Montpellier, France where he graduated in 1978 with a Ph.D.

Dr. Mensah moved to the United States in 1980 after taking a job as a research engineer with Air Products & Chemicals of Allentown, PA.

Three years later, he joined the engineering team of Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY. He soon discovered that the fragility of the glass fiber-optic wires which the company manufactured caused them to snap easily if the drawing and coating phases of manufacturing fiber optics were configured to produce more than two meters per second of wire.

He discovered a solution that results in the fiber optic wire’s greater durability and increases in production at rates of up to 20 times the previous production speed without breaking.

His groundbreaking discoveries at Corning Glass Works was the beginning of his engineering career.

In 1986, he joined Georgia’s AT&T Bell Laboratories, now known as Bell Labs, where he was able to utilize fiber optics to create a guidance system for missiles that incorporated a small camera that was installed within the missile’s nose.

The images captured by that camera could be delivered to a pilot, giving them a technique for locking onto a target with incredible accuracy.

Reportedly, the fiber optics missile guidance systems were capable of working while traveling at the speed of sound and were utilized in Patriot missiles and other guided weaponry used by the United States in the Gulf War.

In December 1988, Dr. Mensah was part of a team of Corning inventors who were issued U.S. Patent No. 4792347, entitled Method for Coating Optical Waveguide Fiber. The patent protects the method of using carbon dioxide as a purge gas to reduce air entrainment and bubble inclusions in the liquid coating of a glass optical fiber.

Dr. Mensah is also one of two inventors listed on U.S. Patent No. 4636405, issued under the title Curing Apparatus for Coated Fiber.

He holds 14 patents with seven patents in fiber optics technologies over the course of six years.

Some of his inventions include semiconductors designed for space communications, tank gun barrel replacements and solid-state rechargeable cell phone batteries.

Dr. Mensah founded in Norcross, GA, a high tech firm called “Supercond Technologies”, which helped to develop advanced structural materials for American fighter aircraft.

Dr. Mensah is currently the president and director of Georgia Aerospace Systems Manufacturing, which is also focused on research and development in aerospace materials.

Dr. Mensah’s technological exploits have various recognition and award. He earned the Corning Glass Works Industrial Outstanding Contributor Award for Innovation in Fiber Optics, 1985; AT&T Bell Laboratories High-Performance Award, 1988; and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)’s William Grimes Award for Excellence in Chemical Engineering, 2006.

He got the Kwame Nkrumah African Genius Award in Ghana in 2017, The World Nanotechnology Conference Award in Dubai, 2019, Fellow recognition at the US National Academy of Inventors, Percy Julian Award in the US, AIChE 100 amongst others.

He has also authored five books on innovation including the international textbook “Nanotechnology Commercialization”.

Apart from creating Silicon Valley of Ghana, Dr. Mensah is involved in several high profile infrastructure programmes in the West African country that is aimed at helping Ghana reach 90 percent of its Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Mensah has been described as the Imhotep of Modern Times.

Last Edited by:Theodora Aidoo Updated: March 18, 2020


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