Archive for the ‘Trinidad & Tobago Innovation Centre’ Tag

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).

Entrepreneurship & Innovation in T&T

The word ‘entrepreneur’ generally calls to mind an image of a fast-talking, savvy businessman with numbers on the brain and money to burn.

Schoolchildren wielding rubber-bands? …Not so much.

But this rubber-band project was a building block of an innovative activity geared to stimulate students’ entrepreneurial drives.

This was done by students at one of the schools linked to the Trinidad & Tobago Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club (TTEI), which is headed by Ryan John.

Rubber-band innovation

As John explained, the rubber-band project demonstrated why students frequently arrived late to school.

Thick rubber-bands of varying colours were sold for $1 each, and along the rubber-band’s surface, information was written to indicate time and distance between places.

The students then used the rubber-bands to indicate on maps their routes to school, demonstrating how difficult it was to be on time.

The end result is a visual and artistic representation that reflects an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to the process of problem-solving.

The students hope to venture out into the surrounding community to expand the project and get others to take part in it, with the hope of gaining an audience of the Ministry of Works and Transport and eventually the Prime Minister.

TTEI – nurturing innovation

The example of the potential to be gleaned from a mere rubber-band was one of the seeds of thought inculcated by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club.

Currently operating through The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST), the Club provides a forum where young people can visit in order to get some information on business practices and to practice entrepreneurship before leaving school.

Ryan John believes that it is essential to begin teaching and encouraging entrepreneurship from a very young age, at least at the Form 3 level.

“By the time they’re finished with CXC, they’ve gone through that ‘brainwashing’ process of ‘you’re going to school to work for somebody, to get a job’,” he said.

“Before that is injected, we need to instill in them that there is a possibility that exists for them to be able to put something of their own out there and live off it.”

All-encompassing innovation

John lamented the fact that, at present, as the Club operates through NIHERST, it mainly attracts youths from the Port-of-Spain region.

He would like for the Club to exist in different locations around Trinidad and Tobago, and to liaise with other companies to aid the development of the country.

He acknowledged that some companies have already contributed to promoting innovation, but insisted that most efforts have been separatist to date, which only benefited the company’s interests rather than the country as a whole.

TTEI aims to function as an all-encompassing entity and neutral body that does not focus on any one sector or industry, but takes the entire development of the country into consideration.

“We want it to be a centerpiece for every element that exists for helping youths – we’re connected to Science and Technology, so we can direct members of the Club to where to go for ideas and how to make their ideas feasible, where to go for patenting, and so on,” John said.

Mobile mentorship

Some successes of the Club to date include the hosting of National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (NEDCO) and Business Development Company (BDC) for lectures and discussions on business funding.

Ryan John has also conducted talks on the necessary sacrifices involved in being an entrepreneur, and worked with students in teams towards the development of innovative ideas towards an end product.

John’s next step for the Club is to begin a ‘mobile mentorship’ program, where youths can connect to recognised and established people in their fields of interest and pitch questions and concerns by text-messaging, emailing and the Internet.

Reflective of the high-paced technologically-driven atmosphere of youths, this is ideal for young entrepreneurs, and would also be a more low-maintenance and less time-consuming relationship for the mentor as well.

UTT’s Innovation Centre

TTEI is only one initiative to indicate that innovation is alive and well in Trinidad and Tobago.

Who knows? Perhaps the members of TTEI will be the same youths to develop start-ups businesses under the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) Innovation Centre (TTIC), a business incubator that will provide tenancy and enhanced managerial and financial support for 1-3 years to start-up technology and knowledge-based companies.

Operating virtually since October 2006, the Centre will finally have a place to be physically housed upon the launch of e TecK’s Tamana InTech Park in Wallerfield, north Trinidad.

Like John’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, TTIC aims to be a springboard for young entrepreneurs who need the framework to pursue their entrepreneurial desires and innovative ideas, with the intention of culminating in the successful launch into the world of business.

To find out more about TTIC, click here.

To connect with TTEI on Facebook, click here.