Dr. Thomas Mensah was born in 1950 in Kumasi. At a young age, he could read newspapers and converse fluently in French with business associates of his father. At the time, his father was a shipper of cocoa products to French chocolate makers. He had his high school education at Adisadel College in Cape Coast where he excelled in Science and Mathematics. His fluency in French helped him to win the National French competition in Ghana, both at the Ordinary Levels (1968) and Advanced Levels (1970). He proceeded to study Chemical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and graduated in 1974. He received a French government fellowship to study at Montpellier University in France. While there, he took part in a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received a certificate in Modeling and Simulation of Chemical Processes in 1977. He graduated with his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Montpelier University in 1978.
Dr. Mensah moved to the United States in 1980 after his appointment 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.
Other patents of Dr. Mensah
Dr. Mensah holds more than a dozen patents and was issued seven patents in fiber optics technologies over the course of six years. In December 1988, Dr. Mensah was part of a team of Corning inventors who were issued U.S. Patent No. 4792347, which is titled Method for Coating Optical Waveguide Fiber. This patent protects the method of using carbon dioxide as a purge gas to reduce air entrainment and bubble inclusions in the liquid coating of a glass optical fiber. Dr. Mensah is also one of two inventors listed on U.S. Patent No. 4636405, issued under the title Curing Apparatus for Coated Fiber.The invention also incorporates a jacket through which an infrared energy-absorbing fluid flows, cooling the cured coating without vibrating the fiber excessively.
U.S. Patent No. 4531959, entitled Method and Apparatus for Coating Optical Fibers, also lists Dr. Mensah as an inventor. It was issued in July 1985 to protect an apparatus that included a sizing die, a sleeve with fiber input and output ends, an inner flow chamber surrounding the sleeve and a means for supplying coating liquid to the inner chamber to provide a concentric coating for an optical waveguide fiber that has a low incidence of bubbles.
By 1986, he had joined Georgia’s AT&T Bell Laboratories, now known as Bell Labs, where he began work on the application of fiber optics to guidance technologies which could be utilized in guided missile systems and other military applications.
Dr. Mensah was able to utilize fiber optics to create a guidance system for missiles that incorporated a small camera which was installed within the missile’s nose. The images captured by that camera could be delivered to a pilot, giving them a technique for locking onto a target with an incredible accuracy. The fiber optics missile guidance systems were capable of working while traveling at the speed of sound and were utilized in Patriot missiles and other guided weaponry used by the United States in the Gulf War.
included Dr. Mensah as an inventor which showcase the innovations he helped to develop while at AT&T Bell Labs. The highly durable fiber optics capable required to work at high speeds for missile guidance systems is disclosed by U.S. Patent No. 5035169, issued under the title Guided Vehicle System in July 1991. The guided vehicle system claimed here includes a control station which controls a vehicle and a package of optical fiber that contains a bobbin around which is wound a plurality of convolutions of optical fiber and a curable adhesive material applied to the outwardly facing surface portions of the convolutions. U.S. Patent No. 5064490, entitled Methods of Providing an Optical Fiber Package, was issued in November 1991 to Dr. Mensah et. al., protecting the techniques for manufacturing the optical fiber package comprised of optical fiber wound about a bobbin. The patent claims the method of winding optical fibers around a bobbin and applying a silicone adhesive material to each layer of optical fiber. The optical fiber package developed for a weapons system is also the focus of U.S. Patent No. 4955688, which is titled Optical Fiber Package and Methods of Making. Issued in September 1990, it claims a package of elongated optical transmitting medium which is disposed in a plurality of adjacent convolutions and a silicone adhesive material applied to the convolutions.
Dr Mensah has other ranges of innovations to his credit. This includes semiconductors designed for space communications, tank gun barrel replacements and solid state rechargeable cell phone batteries. Dr. Mensah’s aerospace innovations helped him build the high tech firm he founded in Norcross, GA, known as Supercond Technologies, which helped to develop advanced structural materials for American fighter aircraft. He is also currently the president and director of Georgia Aerospace Systems Manufacturing, which is also focused on research and development in aerospace materials.
On February 24, 2017, CBS Television News ran a segment for Black History Month featuring Dr. Mensah titled “The Engineer who Revolutionized the Internet”. He also serves on the board of a number of organizations including the AIChE National Board of Directors (1987–1990) and is a current Trustee of the Board of AIChE Foundation, and member of the board for the NASA Space Grant Consortium at Georgia Institute of Technology. Mensah was elected a Fellow US National Academy of Inventors in 2014. He is also chairman of Entertainment Arts Research Inc., a Virtual Reality and Video Game Design Company.
Dr Mensah has received official recognition and awards on many platforms. These recognitions and awards include:
• The Corning Glass Works Industrial Outstanding Contributor Award for Innovation in Fiber Optics, 1985
• AT&T Bell Laboratories High Performance Award, 1988
• The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)’s William Grimes Award for Excellence in Chemical Engineering, 2006.
• Turner’s Trumpet Award for Fiber Optics Innovation,
• Percy Julian Award,
• Golden Torch Award; the highest award by NSBE,
• Eminent Engineers award by AIChE.
• The Kwame Nkrumah African Genius Award in Science/Technology and Innovation, 2017
• Honorary degree in Doctor of Science; D.Sc. Honoraris Causa KNUST, 2017
• The International Business Leadership Award from the African Leadership Magazine in Atlanta Georgia, USA, 2015.
Books published by Dr Mensah include;
• Fiber Optics Engineering in 1987
• Superconductor Engineering in 1992
• The Right Stuff Comes in Black, Too in 2013 his autobiography
• Nanotechnology Commercialization in 2017.
In the first quarter of 2015, the government of the State of Georgia in the USA passed a House Resolution to commend Mensah and his works.