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Texas T
06-10-2004, 19:12
I read this today and thought everyone might be interested. It sort of ties into "how do I hide my antenna" threads but thought it deserved a posting all its own...

http://www.projo.com/news/content/projo_20040610_uri10.25a1ab.html

Is tiny antenna next big thing?

Technician's tinkering could make millions for him and URI


01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, June 10, 2004


BY JENNIFER D. JORDAN
Journal Staff Writer



SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Rob Vincent never outgrew his childhood hobby as an amateur radio operator. He wrapped his parents' house in Warren with wires and later tinkered in basement workshops, searching for a way to get better reception without using the large antennas that were always too big for the relatively small homes he lived in.

His current house in Warwick sits on a small lot, so ham radio buddies in Cumberland and Westport let him install various antennas on their properties a couple of years ago, converting their yards into test sites for Vincent's myriad experiments.

Now 60, Vincent believes he has done it. He has invented very small, efficient, powerful antennas that work as well as much larger ones. The possibilities are dizzying; cell phone companies, Wal-Mart, the U.S. Defense Department might all covet this technology. If so, Vincent's invention could bring in millions of dollars, about half of which would go to him. The other half would go to his place of employment -- the University of Rhode Island.

"There was a time in my life when I needed someone to have faith in me, and they gave me a job," Vincent said of his arrangement with URI. "They gave me a purpose."

VINCENT DISPLAYS his prototype, a delicate nine-inch antenna, next to a standard-size, 54-inch antenna in a lab on the Kingston campus yesterday. Both have a bandwith of 150 megahertz and both have an efficiency rate of about 90 percent, meaning only 10 percent of energy generated is wasted in the form of heat, Vincent explained.

To his knowledge -- and so far to the knowledge of lawyers from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office who are conducting exhaustive searches -- Vincent's antenna is the only one that can claim such a small size combined with high efficiency and wide bandwith.

Vincent said he accomplished this by combining several different antenna technologies that had not been used together before. Along the way, he melted several models before he discovered the right combination.

"This little antenna has all the performance of the big one," Vincent said, gazing down at his invention. "We call it David, because it does a pretty good job of emulating Goliath here."

If his invention proves successful, it could double the range of police walkie-talkies, boost the reception of cell phones and global positioning systems and allow airplanes to use shorter antennas to talk to air-traffic controllers. Vincent's 9-inch antenna could render obsolete radio towers that stretch hundreds of feet into the sky.

Vincent is also developing a tiny, flat antenna that fits on a postage stamp and could have even more profound implications for homeland security efforts. But he hesitated to discuss that invention in detail because it is not as far along the patent process as his 9-inch antenna.

USUALLY, PROFESSORS split the profits from their intellectual property three ways: a third for URI, a third for their college and a third for themselves, says Quentin "Chuck" Turtle, URI's director for industrial research and technology transfer.

But Vincent's case was different.

First, he is not a professor or a graduate student. After 30 years working in electronics and design engineering for companies such as Raytheon, Vincent found himself out of work in the early 1990s. He decided to return to college to complete his bachelor's degree and got a job as a technician in URI's physics department. Vincent says he enjoys his job repairing scientific equipment, designing research devices and assisting faculty and graduate students. Physics professors supported his antenna project and encouraged Vincent to submit his idea to URI's intellectual property committee last year -- a highly unusual move for a staff member, Turtle said.

"This is the first time in my 15 years here that this has happened," Turtle said. "Usually it is a faculty member or a graduate student or a combination of those two, but in this case, he is a physics technician."

Second, Vincent created his inventions on his own time and did not use university facilities and resources. "So the invention was his, and he ceded it to the university," Turtle said.

URI's intellectual property committee agreed last year to pay for the costly and lengthy patent process, including thousands of dollars in attorney fees. URI has also given Vincent time this spring to prepare proposals and reports related to his invention.

Under the agreement, URI receives 40 percent of any commercial profits; Vincent receives 60 percent. But Vincent has promised to give 20 percent of his portion to the physics department.

Turtle says the phone has been ringing since URI publicly announced Vincent's invention last week.

"I am surprised it appears to be a design that has garnered so much interest, with such little exposure," Turtle said. "If I were to gaze into the crystal ball, I would say it certainly will turn out to be a great invention. There are so many potential applications and such a need for it."

VINCENT HAS NEVER made much money from his various jobs and said finances were always tight, especially after two divorces and four children.

His antennas look promising, but Vincent's friend Jan Northby, chairman of the physics department, has adopted a cautious approach.

"I am hopeful because I think this is an idea with wide applications, that could be very valuable to Rob, the university and the organizations that want to use it," Northby said. "But we're a long way from having a product that is ready to sell, and getting rich off of patents is not a guaranteed thing."

If his inventions do make him rich, Vincent already knows how he'd like to spend his 48 percent of the profits: more visits to his grown children. He lost precious time with them when they were younger, and he doesn't want to miss any more.

Vincent wants to set up a fund for fathers going through divorce, to help them emotionally and financially adjust to single parenthood, child support payments and trying to get good jobs. He hopes to go fly-fishing and bike riding and read lots of Jack Higgins books. He might buy a sailboat. Maybe he'll finish his bachelor's degree in physics and teach at a technical school. He'll spend more time with his "significant other" at home in Warwick. When not doing all of the above, Vincent will most likely be in his "shack," sending Morse code to his fellow amateur radio operators.

Texas T
06-12-2004, 07:09
"Possibly" one of the greatest innovations to help Hams that has come down the pike in years and no one has a comment one way or the other?

k8ysv
06-12-2004, 08:47
My comment would be that I'd like to see one and actually read over some of the theory behing it. A 9" antenna with a 150 MHz bandwidth is almost too good to be true, especially at 90% efficiency. I'm skeptical as to how well it would really work, but I like to keep an open mind.

grnzbra
06-18-2004, 04:12
What has he got for 80 meters?