Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Trinidadian inventor Ronald De Four patents technology to mitigate global warming

Ronald De Four

Ronald De Four, Trinidadian inventor

After seven years of intense determination and personal sacrifice, Dr. Ronald De Four is now the proud owner of a US patent via the Patent Cooperation Treaty – only the second of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago.

In March 2003, De Four transformed scalar time variables into vector variables in the spatial domain of an electrical motor and performed vector addition to the resulting voltages to produce the De Four Back EMF Space Vector Resolver, a theory he applied in the development of his invention, ‘Self-Starting Method and An Apparatus for Sensorless Commutation of Brushless DC Motors’ (World Intellectual Property Organization International Publication Number WO 2006/073378 A1 and U.S. Pat. No. 7,737,651).

It took seven stages in order to get to where he has gotten, a long and complicated process that has deterred many other inventors and which has won him world class recognition alongside other pioneer inventors in this field.

Apart from the technical aspects of his invention, getting it patented was another substantial hurdle.

“The patenting process is the biggest problem and the biggest headache you will ever get,” said De Four.

But his determination persevered.

Personal sacrifice

De Four underwent intense study to learn the intricate workings of intellectual property law, and how to formulate the technical documents.

He has spent hundreds of thousands of TT dollars thus far in prosecuting patent applications in the United States of America and many other PCT contracting states.

“I had to sell land, cut back on eating, on many things, because I had to pay patent bills,” he admitted. “I could have been on the streets all now. But I knew. I just knew this would work.”

Brushless DC Motors

His invention will soon have a resounding impact in industries across the board, including: appliances, automotive, aerospace, consumer, medical, computer and industrial automation industries.

Brushless DC (BLDC) motors have gained popularity due to their advantages of high power density, high efficiency, long operating life, clean operation, low audible noise operation, high speed operation, low thermal resistance and low electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference.

This results in the motor doing more work per KWh of electricity, thus providing a desirable solution to enhancing energy efficiency and reducing environmental pollution.

But unlike traditional AC Induction and Brush DC motors, BLDC motors require rotor position sensors for providing rotor position information to commutate and drive the motor.

This increases both the cost and the complexity, causing an overall decrease in system efficiency and reliability.

De Four’s method and apparatus

Building upon research and developments for over 20 years in the area of sensorless commutation, De Four’s invention introduces a new commutation technique for BLDC motors which now allows the motor to be self-starting and the windings to be activated at any angle to get any performance of your choice, which is possible because it is software-driven.

“I have not patented hardware,” he explained. “The Americans are very smart and I decided to get smarter. We do not have the technology, we do not have the critical mass, we do not have the funding to build airplanes and spaceships. However we do have the brains to make certain parts of them work better. I used what has been built, and structures that have been working well in the industry to piggyback onto, and have my inventions riding on them. This way, the industry doesn’t have to change – I just retro-fit with software.”

Mitigating global warming

The mitigation of global warming has been a primary focus of research activity for De Four, a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies, as well as CEO and Chairman of his startup company R de F Technologies LTD.

The application of his invention will result in the reduction of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuel and the key greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

De Four acknowledged that his invention will not yield immediate results, but if industries adopt his method, the effects of it will stretch beyond hundreds and thousands of years, because such a high-performance energy-efficient system is needed to maintain an environment capable of sustaining human and animal life.

An avid supporter of innovation in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Ronald De Four has offered his knowledge and time to Tamana InTech Park to serve on the Steering Committee for Trinidad and Tobago’s Innovation Centre (TTIC).

T&T’s knowledge-based economy: Institutional Regime and Innovation System

In the words of Judy Lake, vice president of Information Technology Services at the University of Trinidad and Tobago:

“As a nation, Trinidad now has greater expectations. We don’t want to go back; we don’t know how to go back. The only way is the way forward, the way onwards towards the vast opportunities for creative minds to welcome the era of the knowledge-based economy.”

Indeed.

With Tamana InTech Park, the country is going forward and onwards to a knowledge-based economy.

A knowledge-based economy (KBE) is one in which the production, distribution and use of knowledge are the main drivers of growth, wealth-creation and employment across all industries.

Last week’s blog article examined Trinidad and Tobago’s readiness for ushering in a new era of a knowledge-based economy by looking at two of the four World Bank pillars:
(1) ICT Infrastructure
(2) Education and Skills

Now we’ll look at the final two pillars:
(3) Economical and Institutional Regime
(4) Innovation System

How does Trinidad and Tobago measure up to other countries in these World Bank pillars?

How will Tamana InTech Park bolster the nation’s economy?

How does the Trinidad & Tobago Innovation Centre (TTIC) at Tamana InTech Park fit into the national innovation system?

Click here to read the article published today in the Trinidad Express, part 2 of the articles series, discussing the final two of the four World Bank Pillars: (3) Economical and Institutional Regime and (4) Innovation System.

T&T’s knowledge-based economy: ICT and upskilling

Tamana InTech Park is the single most important initiative to date by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago in the quest to transform the economy from its historical dependence on oil and gas.

Tamana InTech Park is helping the country to move away from its reliance on a commodity-based economy and invest in developing a knowledge-based economy (KBE).

A knowledge-based economy (KBE) is one in which the production, distribution and use of knowledge are the main drivers of growth, wealth-creation and employment across all industries.

The World Bank has identified the four pillars of a KBE as :
(1) Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure (ICT)
(2) Education and Skills
(3) Economical and Institutional Regime
(4) Innovation System

The countries recognised as the best examples of KBEs are Sweden, the United States, Korea and Finland.

It is no coincidence that these are also the most innovative countries in the world.

So how does Trinidad and Tobago measure up to the World Bank pillars?

Click here to read the article published today in the Trinidad Express, discussing the first two of the four World Bank Pillars: (1) Information and Communication Infrastructure and (2) Education and Skills.

Local entrepreneurs shine at UTT’s Business Plan Competition 2010

First prize winner Abigail Liverpool (second from left) is presented with her cheque by Carl Francis, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Dr. Denise Thompson, UTT Professor at the Centre for Production Systems; and Angela Hordatt, Vice President of Business Development at e TecK

Young entrepreneurs took advantage of the opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) fourth annual Business Plan competition, held on Thursday July 15th at UTT’s O’Meara campus in Arima.

The competition, which is sponsored by e TecK and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, provides a means for identifying, developing and testing the feasibility of innovative, knowledge and technology-based opportunities in some of the industry areas targeted by the government for expanded investment.

“Our goal is to increase the contributions of non-energy sectors, thus reducing our dependence on energy-related resources,” stated Permanent Secretary Mr. Carl Francis, who gave the keynote address on behalf of the Honourable Mr. Stephen Cadiz, Minister of Trade and Industry.

He added that competitions such as these promote healthy linkages between creative, technological and educational facilities which support greater innovation and entrepreneurship throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

‘Organicycle’ takes the win

Applicants were given 20 minutes to present their business plans, and were judged on:
(1) Innovation, creativity and originality (15%)
(2) Market feasibility and response to clear market needs (25%)
(3) Management feasibility, human and technical resources (15%)
(4) Financial feasibility, start up and sustainability (25%)
(5) Presentation (20%)

The team of Abigail Liverpool and Giselle Lewis emerged as the winners of the $100,000 prize for their entry “Organicycle”, an organic waste recycling company developed with the objective of solving problems that exist within the agricultural and horticultural industries, as well as providing a solution for the country’s waste management.

“The competition gave me the opportunity to bring my ideas to fruition by managing a small startup company for turning waste into organic matter for planting,” said Abigail Liverpool.

She added: “While others may encourage you to think big and start big, I would encourage budding innovator and entrepreneurs to engage in something that is manageable and can grow in a short space of time.”

The team of Cherisse Ferreira, Davina Bujhawan and Leon George placed second with “Bambusa Limited”, which seeks to establish a manufacturing plant for the production of bamboo flooring and bamboo products in Trinidad & Tobago.

Cherise Ferreira stated that the exposure and experience was most valued by her team. “We were able to get to express a different side other than academic,” she said. “The practical application of academic knowledge was a welcome change.”

Third place was secured by Kirby Austin, Elliot Mapp-Best, and Arlette Antoine for their proposed company T.A.I.B. Ltd. which will provide tilapia fish products to the local market in Trinidad & Tobago.

 Springboard for future businesses

The UTT Business Plan Competition originated as a programme requirement for the students of the Masters in Industrial and Innovation Entrepreneurship, and was gradually opened to the wider university inclusive of students, staff and faculty. It intends to act as both a preview of the way a real business will be conducted, as well as a potential take-off platform for future opportunities.

As the Trinidad Guardian newspaper highlights, UTT criteria specifies that the first-place winner must follow through on the business plan to access the prize money:

  • $25,000 is distributed when the team successfully completes within 6 months the company registration, identifies management team and board, has first board meeting, and opens a business bank account
  • $25,000 is distributed on satisfactory completion of a business plan within 8 months of winning the award
  • the final $50,000 is given on completion of patent, drafting a sales contract or developing a satisfactory prototype

e TecK has been sponsoring UTT’s Business Plan Competition for the past four years, and intends to continue its investment in this venture to encourage Business Development opportunities.

The budding entrepreneurial talent emerging from this and other similar competitions will directly feed into the Trinidad and Tobago Innovation Centre at Tamana InTech Park.