Two US-based scientists of Indian origin are among 15 people to be inducted into the prestigious National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Arogyaswami Paulraj, a professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University has invented MIMO — Multiple Input, Multiple Output — a wireless technology that has revolutionized broadband wireless internet access for billions of people worldwide. And Sumita Mitra, a partner at Mitra Chemical Consulting LLC and a retired scientist from 3M, is known for inventing nanocomposite dental materials.
In past years, other Indian born scientists have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, such as Haren Gandhi in 2017 for inventing Automotive Exhaust Catalysts; B Jayant Baliga in 2016 for his work on semiconductors; Ashok Gadgil of UC Berkeley in 2014 for his water disinfecting device; Amar Bose in 2008 for revolutionizing speaker technology; C Kumar Patel in 2012 for the carbon dioxide laser; and Rangaswamy Srinivasan in 2002 for his work in LASIK surgery; Robert R. Williams in 1991 for discovering Vitamin Synthesis and in1979 Charles J. Plank , for inventing Zeolite Catalyst for Catalytic Cracking, commercially useful in the petroleum industry for the catalytic cracking of petroleum into lighter products such as gasoline.
NIHF is dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity, and advancing the spirit in of innovation and entrepreneurship and the award is held in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The inductees are to be honored at the 46th annual NIHF’s black-tie gala on May 3, Washington DC.
On being picked, Paulraj, the father of MIMO, told indica he was informed of the honor last August.
“It was a pleasant but not unexpected surprise. Only 1 in 16,000 US patents get selected for this honor,” he said.
“MIMO is now the core tech behind all modern wireless systems, so it was good to see USPTO’s recognition. It is good to join such an illustrious crowd that includes Thomas Edison, Nicolas Tesla and the Wright brothers,” he said.
MIMO involves the use of multiple transmitters and receivers to boost data sent. Going over multiple paths, bouncing and deflecting off obstacles, the information reaches the target from different points at different angles and times. Combining this information instead of deeming them errors helps increase its richness and boosts performance.
The Hall of Fame recognition is given to top basic inventions backed by a US patent.
The discovery of MIMO did not come easily Paulraj had to go through 1,400 papers and himself wrote about 200 papers before making it human-friendly. His other major discovery involved his work on sonar systems (APSOH) for the India military.
Born in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India, Paulraj joined the Indian Navy at age 15 and worked in the Research and Development side of it. Impressed by his work in 1969 the Indian Navy sent him to the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, where he earned a Ph.D. for work in advancing signal filtering theory.
The loss of an Indian naval ship from the submarine action in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War brought Paulraj to sonar technology and he successfully improved the Indian Navy’s sonar capability. In 1977, he led the design of the APSOH sonar, which became the fleet sonar of the Indian Navy, ushering in India’s global leadership in this area.
As an award for his work on APSOH, Paulraj was given a two-year sabbatical leave to explore new areas, and he came as visiting a scientist at Stanford University.
In 1986 he returned back to serve his country and founded three national labs in India — CAIR (Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics), CDAC (Center for Development of Advanced Computing) and CRL (Central Research Labs of Bharat Electronics).
But the professor was engulfed within Indian bureaucratic battles and with the consent of the Indian Navy took premature retirement.
In 1991, he returned to the Stanford University, which he now believes was one of the best things to happen to him.
In 2014 Prof. Paulraj was honored with the Marconi Prize, which recognized his efforts to commercialize his invention and the Bell Medal for the theoretical advances made to support the invention.
“They [Marconi Prize and Bell Medal ] had different flavors,” said Paulraj who now is working with the Indian government to promote 5G wireless technology there.
Modest and soft-spoken Paulraj said he is pleased to see Sumita Mitra, another Indian, being inducted.
Mitra, who is presently traveling in India, will be the first Indian woman to be honored by NIHF. This is for her work in including nanomaterials in dental filling.