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Dr Thomas Owusu Mensah

Dr Thomas Owusu Mensah



Thomas Owusu Mensah was a Ghanaian-American chemical engineer and inventor who contributed to the development of fiber optic manufacturing on which the internet is so dependent and he also helped in advancing Nano technology. He also worked on producing the first laser-guided missile systems among scores of other discoveries. He had 14 patents, and was inducted into the US National Academy of Inventors in 2015.

He won the French Government Fellowship in 1974 to do graduate studies in Chemical Engineering at Montpelier University France, after receiving his undergraduate degree in the same field from University of Science and Technology, Kumasi (1970- 1974). Prior to his undergraduate work, Dr Mensah attended Wesley College practice school, Kumasi and Adisadel College, Cape Coast. Dr Mensah who is fluent in French won the National French competition in Ghana, both at the O-level (1968) and A-level (1970), which was held in Accra


Thomas Mensah’s Early Life and Education

From an early age, Mensah displayed a propensity for intellectual behavior. Born in 1950 in Kumasi, Ghana,  a young Mensah could read newspapers and converse fluently in French  with business associates of his father’s, a shipper of cocoa products to  French chocolate makers. His fluency in French helped him to win  different levels of the National French Contest (Le Grand Concours) in 1968 and in 1970.

Mensah’s education was commensurate with his mental capabilities. He  studied at a prestigious boys school known as Adisadel College in Cape  Coast where he excelled in science and math. Mensah would continue on to  study chemical engineering at the University of Science and Technology  Kumasi in Ghana, which he attended as an honors student and from which  he graduated in 1974.

Before beginning his career as an American engineer, Mensah engaged  in a fellowship awarded by the French government to study chemical  engineering at the University of Science and Technology at Montpellier,  France. He would graduate from that school in 1978 with a Ph.D after  also having completed a program at the Massachusetts Institute of  Technology the year before.

Dr. Mensah’s Early Career and Fiber Optics at Corning

Dr. Mensah went to the United States in 1980 after taking a job as a  research engineer with Air Products & Chemicals of Allentown, PA.  Here, Dr. Mensah showed a remarkable ability in understanding chemical  qualities for improving manufacturing processes.

One of Dr. Mensah’s early assignments at the company was to observe  the mixing process involving the injection of a catalyst into polyvinyl  acetate, or PVAC. Poor quality mixtures created by the mixing process  resulted in a PVAC product that cured improperly and was the cause of a  great deal of factory delays. Dr. Mensah discovered that by changing the  configuration of the mixing blades and altering their notch depth, the  catalyzing reactant could be mixed more thoroughly for a purer PVAC  blend. This greatly diminished factory delays at Air Products &  Chemicals and improved the efficiency of the entire process.

By 1983, Dr. Mensah had joined the engineering team of Corning Glass  Works in Corning, NY. His assignment with this company was to address  efficiency problems sustained during fiber optic cable manufacturing  processes. 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.

Focusing on the coating phase of producing fiber optic wire, Dr.  Mensah noted that there were tiny bubbles being trapped on the coating  surface as it cured. These bubbles served to weaken the strength of  these wires, making them more brittle, and also caused losses in data  transmission, reducing the speed at which data could travel through the  wire. Dr. Mensah called for carbon dioxide gas to be injected near the  boundary layer formed during the coating process, which prevented the  bubbles from forming. The resulting fiber optic wire had a greater  durability and could be produced at rates of up to 20 times the previous  production speed without breaking.

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Place of Birth: Kumasi



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Date of Birth: 1950

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