Invention Recognition Reception honors the inventors of FY 2022 

Written by
Jeanne Jackson DeVoe
June 15, 2023

PPL honored more than 40 inventors who produced more than a dozen inventions, applied for two patents and received three patents in fiscal year 2022 at a recent invention recognition event hosted by PPPL Director Steve Cowley and his wife, Margaret. 

Inventors at the Lab came up with a range of invention ideas from a sustainable technology that efficiently synthesizes carbon nanotubes from methane to a novel way to disinfect the handrails of escalators and moving walkways using plasmas. 

Not surprisingly, several of the methods were related to PPPL’s central mission of producing research aimed at developing fusion energy as a clean, safe and virtually limitless source of power. These include a new technology for a diagnostic called a “variable radii bitter spiral crystal spectrometer” named for Manfred Bitter, one of the inventors, and an impurity granule injector that adds granules into plasmas during fusion reactions. 

“We’re all looking for new ideas,” said Lan Gao, a research physicist at PPPL who was on the team of scientists who developed the spectrometer, “and by talking to different people and learning from the group, you find some inspiration.” 

Three patents in FY2022

Three technologies received patents in FY 2022. Sam Cohen, the principal investigator on the Princeton Field Reversed Configuration (PFRC) experiment, received two of the patents for technologies related to his experiment. The reactor has a cylindrical chamber surrounded by superconducting coils or magnets with powerful magnets at each end. The idea is to produce a dense ionized plasma that would hold itself together and produce a fusion reaction that would propel the rocket. Such a propulsion system could be used for deep space exploration.

Johan Carlsson, a former scientist at PPPL who is now a senior research scientist at Avalanche Energy, received a patent for a microphone that uses plasma to test the structural health of bridges and other structures. Cohen was among several inventors who had multiple inventions. Physicist Yevgeny Raitses led the list with five invention disclosures for the year. 

Sustainable technologies

A few of the technologies were related to sustainable technologies, a new research focus at PPPL. In addition to the nanotube technology, PPPL inventors came up with an electrochemical conversion process that captures and recycles carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The two substances are used in various processes such as the process to extract iron from ore. 

Other inventions could be used in satellites or rockets. For example, one technology for which the inventors have applied for a patent is a segmented wall-less hall thruster that powers  a miniaturized plasma propulsion device for satellites. Another thruster using magnetic reconnection could be used to propel rockets. 

Some technologies were developed for specific projects at PPPL. The molecular sieve sampling device, for example, was a technology developed by Andy Carpe and Thomas Guttadora to sample equipment used to contain material from the legacy tritium systems of the former Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor. The technology was crucial to the Tritium Systems Demolition and Disposal project, which removed the tritium system. 

Below is a list of the inventors honored at the reception. 

Johan Carlsson, a senior research scientist at Avalanche Energy and a former physicist at PPPL: “System and Method for Acoustic to Electronic Transduction”  (patent) 

Sam Cohen: principle investigator, Magnetic Nozzle and Field Reversed Configuration experiments, PPPL:  “System and Method for Reducing Heat Loss From FRC Bulk Plasma” (patent)

Sam Cohen and Matthew Chu Cheong, founding data scientists at  Stable Auto, San Francisco, and former PPPL intern: “System and Method for Small, Clean, Steady-State Fusion Reactors” (patent) 

Shurik Yatom, staff research physicist, PPPPL: Yevgeny Raitses, managing principal research physicist, PPPL; Sophia Gershman, research engineer, PPPL; and Phil Efthimion, former head of Plasma Science and Technology, PPPL:  “Low-Temperature Dielectric Barrier Discharge Device” (patent application) 

Jacob Simmonds, technologist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and former Princeton University graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Yevgeny Raitses: “Segmented Wall-less Hall Thruster”

Sarveshwar Sharma, scientist at Institute for Plasma Research, India, and former visiting researcher at PPPL; Igor Kaganovich, principal research physicist and deputy head of the Theory Department, PPPL; Sanket Patil, research intern at the Institute for Plasma Physics, India, and former undergraduate researcher at PPPL; Sudip Sengupta, Institute for Plasma Research, and Abhijit Sen, Institute for Plasma Research:  “Electron Bounce-Cyclotron Resonance in Capacitive Discharges at Low Magnetic Field” 

Alexander  I. Khrabry, former research physicist, PPPL; Yuri Vladimirovich Barsukov, postdoctoral research associate, PPPL;  and Igor Kaganovich: “Method for Efficient Synthesis of Carbon Nanotubes From Methane”

Andrei Khodak, principal engineering analyst, PPPL, and Rajesh Maingi, head of Tokamak, Experimental Science, PPPL: “High Heat Flux Power Exhaust Using Evaporation”

Masaaki Yamada, principal research physicist, Magnetic Reconnection Experiment, PPPL; and Hiroshi Gota, vice president of program management and science fellow, TAE Technologies: “Spheromak Gun for Inductive Flux Injection” 

Charles Swanson, manager of stellarator system design at Princeton Stellarators,  former associate research physicist at PPPL: “Optimal Structure and Conductor Grading of a TF Coil Inner Leg” 

Novimir Pablant, Manfred Bitter, Kenneth Hill, principal research physicists, PPPL Lan Gao, research physicist, PPPL; Frances Kraus, x-ray spectroscopist and research physicist, PPPL; and Phil Efthimion: “Variable Radii Bitter Spiral Crystal Spectrometer”

Andrei Khodak, Michele Sarazen, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, Princeton University; and Yevgeny Raitses: “Recycling of Carbon Dioxide in the Processes Requiring Carbon Monoxide Using Carbon Dioxide Reduction Process” 

Valerian Nemchinsky, associate professor, Kaiser University, Florida;  and Yevgeny Raitses: “A Method for In-Flight Synthesis of Nanomaterials With a Controlled Supply of Catalyst Seed Particles” 

Kenneth Silber, lead software engineer, PPPL; Charles Gentile, former engineer, PPPL; Nathan Yates, former mechanical and aerospace engineering student;  and Robert Horner, lead technician, PPPL: “Dynamic Surface Disinfection for Escalator and Moving Walkway Handrail Grips Using Non-thermal Directed Plasmas” 

Hantao Ji, professor of astrophysical sciences, Princeton University; Yevgeny Raitses, Jongsoo Yoo, staff research physicist, PPPL; and Masaaki Yamada, principal research physicist, PPPL: “Magnetic Reconnection Thruster (MRT)” 

David J. McComas, Princeton University vice president for PPPL and professor of astrophysical sciences, Andrei Khodak, and Rajesh Maingi: “Diffusion Pump Divertor for Fusion Devices” 

Alex Nagy, deputy head of DIII-D off-site research; David Mauzey, mechanical technician and student engineer, DIII-D; Alessandro Bortolon, and Everett Wolfe: “Torus Interface Valve Anti-fouling Device” 

Alex Nagy, Alessandro Bortolon, principal research physicist, PPPL; David Mauzey, and Dennis Mansfield, principal research physicist, PPPL: “Impurity Granule Injector” 

Alex Nagy, Alessandro Bortolon, Courage Lahban, student researcher, PPPL; and Will Brown, technician, PPPL: “Vacuum Feeder Scale” 

Andy Carpe, engineering associate, PPPL;  and Thomas Guttadora, tech shop lead, PPPL: “Molecular Sieve Sampling Device”