Eden elected a fellow of National Academy of Inventors


Meg Dickinson, ECE ILLINOIS

CSL Professor J. Gary Eden, who holds the Gilmore Endowed Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been elected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Election to NAI fellow status is a high professional distinction for academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating inventions that have affected quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

J. Gary Eden
J. Gary Eden
J. Gary Eden
“It's a great honor and I'm humbled by it,” Eden said.

Also recently elected was Professor Emeritus James J. Coleman, who is now head of the Department of Electrical Engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“Jim is a dear friend and I’m thrilled to be able to be in the same class with him,” Eden said.

Eden has a long, distinguished career in the area of optics, studying lasers and optical physics. He holds more than 70 patents and was elected last year to the National Academy of Engineering.

As a research physicist in the Laser Physics Branch of the Optical Sciences Division of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory from 1976 to 1979, he made several contributions to the areas of visible and ultraviolet lasers and laser spectroscopy, including the co-discovery of the KrCl rare gas-halide excimer laser. He received a Research Publication Award in 1979 for his work at NRL after he co-discovered the proton-beam-pumped laser (Ar-N2, XeF).

“Excimer lasers are based on diatomic molecules — that is, there are two atoms in the molecule — that do not normally exist in nature, but can be produced in a chamber on a transient basis,” Eden said. “Their lifetimes are billionths of a second, but during that time, these molecules will efficiently emit UV photons.”

As a result, excimer lasers are what Eden calls “by far the most intense sources of UV light that humanity has ever made.”

“These lasers have completely transformed the ultraviolet,” Eden said, adding that when he was a graduate student (he earned a master’s degree at ECE ILLINOIS in 1973 and a PhD in 1976), the only UV lasers available were nitrogen lasers, and they produced only weak pulses of light. “The excimer lasers have also transformed medicine, and are used in semiconductor processing for photolithography and annealing silicon.”

Eden has also researched atomic, molecular, and ultrafast laser spectroscopy, as well as the science and technology of microcavity plasma devices. He uses lasers to study how visible and ultraviolet light interacts with matter.

He’s licensed research he developed at the University of Illinois to two companies he co-founded with Adjunct Associate Professor Sung-Jin Park. The first, Eden Park Illumination, offers lamps as large as one square foot that are sold for cinematography and videography, as well as lamps that give off such high energy photons that they are absorbed by air.

These lamps are called deep ultraviolet lamps, and produce ozone that is able to kill odors in the air or remove organic materials from water. They are frequently used in the semiconductor industry, Eden said, because the water used in chip fabrication must be extremely pure. Deep UV lamps are also valuable for curing polymers, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

Eden’s second company, EP Purification, uses a different method — microplasma technology — to produce water-disinfecting ozone.

“We're manufacturing generators that produce ozone in microscopic channels made from aluminum foil,” Eden said. “We chemically transform the aluminum to a nanoporous aluminum oxide. Air is introduced into one end of an array of these channels, which are usually side-by-side, and out the other end emerges the ozone. This technology is at least a factor of 10 smaller in size and weight than conventional water purification systems.”

Using ozone to disinfect water is much better for humans and the environment than traditional methods, which often use chlorine.

“Chlorine’s consequences to our health are not fully understood, but we certainly understand the environmental impact,” Eden said. “A large fraction ends up in our riverways and water table. A growing number of scientists are concerned about its long-term impact.”

Eden said he plans to attend the March 20 induction ceremony of the National Academy of Inventors. It’s a part of the Fourth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Andrew Faile, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s deputy commissioner for patent operations, will give a keynote address for the induction ceremony.

“I am honored to have been elected,” Eden said.