After seven years of intense determination and personal sacrifice, Dr. Ronald De Four is now the proud owner of a US patent via the Patent Cooperation Treaty – only the second of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago.
In March 2003, De Four transformed scalar time variables into vector variables in the spatial domain of an electrical motor and performed vector addition to the resulting voltages to produce the De Four Back EMF Space Vector Resolver, a theory he applied in the development of his invention, ‘Self-Starting Method and An Apparatus for Sensorless Commutation of Brushless DC Motors’ (World Intellectual Property Organization International Publication Number WO 2006/073378 A1 and U.S. Pat. No. 7,737,651).
It took seven stages in order to get to where he has gotten, a long and complicated process that has deterred many other inventors and which has won him world class recognition alongside other pioneer inventors in this field.
Apart from the technical aspects of his invention, getting it patented was another substantial hurdle.
“The patenting process is the biggest problem and the biggest headache you will ever get,” said De Four.
But his determination persevered…
De Four underwent intense study to learn the intricate workings of intellectual property law, and how to formulate the technical documents.
He has spent hundreds of thousands of TT dollars thus far in prosecuting patent applications in the United States of America and many other PCT contracting states.
“I had to sell land, cut back on eating, on many things, because I had to pay patent bills,” he admitted. “I could have been on the streets all now. But I knew. I just knew this would work.”
Brushless DC Motors
His invention will soon have a resounding impact in industries across the board, including: appliances, automotive, aerospace, consumer, medical, computer and industrial automation industries.
Brushless DC (BLDC) motors have gained popularity due to their advantages of high power density, high efficiency, long operating life, clean operation, low audible noise operation, high speed operation, low thermal resistance and low electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference.
This results in the motor doing more work per KWh of electricity, thus providing a desirable solution to enhancing energy efficiency and reducing environmental pollution.
But unlike traditional AC Induction and Brush DC motors, BLDC motors require rotor position sensors for providing rotor position information to commutate and drive the motor.
This increases both the cost and the complexity, causing an overall decrease in system efficiency and reliability.
De Four’s method and apparatus
Building upon research and developments for over 20 years in the area of sensorless commutation, De Four’s invention introduces a new commutation technique for BLDC motors which now allows the motor to be self-starting and the windings to be activated at any angle to get any performance of your choice, which is possible because it is software-driven.
“I have not patented hardware,” he explained. “The Americans are very smart and I decided to get smarter. We do not have the technology, we do not have the critical mass, we do not have the funding to build airplanes and spaceships. However we do have the brains to make certain parts of them work better. I used what has been built, and structures that have been working well in the industry to piggyback onto, and have my inventions riding on them. This way, the industry doesn’t have to change – I just retro-fit with software.”
Mitigating global warming
The mitigation of global warming has been a primary focus of research activity for De Four, a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies, as well as CEO and Chairman of his startup company R de F Technologies LTD.
The application of his invention will result in the reduction of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuel and the key greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
De Four acknowledged that his invention will not yield immediate results, but if industries adopt his method, the effects of it will stretch beyond hundreds and thousands of years, because such a high-performance energy-efficient system is needed to maintain an environment capable of sustaining human and animal life.
An avid supporter of innovation in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Ronald De Four has offered his knowledge and time to Tamana InTech Park to serve on the Steering Committee for Trinidad and Tobago’s Innovation Centre (TTIC).