First Culture

This Ghanaian Man Is The Reason We Can Use A Cellphone

This Ghanaian Man Is The Reason We Can Use A Cellphone

A few years ago, the world depended highly on satellites for the running of their cellphones and their communication devices. This in turn made transmission services, aside being unavailable, time consuming, also largely expensive.

Dr Thomas Mensah is a Ghanaian born, Chemical Engineer, currently the CEO of the Georgia Aerospace Systems who was an instrumental part of the team that developed fiber optics- which is regarded as one of the most important inventions of the century.

Mensah was an exceptionally brilliant child, who grew up in Kumasi, could read newspapers at the age of four and attained fluency in french at the early age of eight. His father was a merchant who sold cocoa products to chocolate manufacturers in France, and so from observing their conversations, he gained such a fluency in the Language that he won the National French Competition in Ghana and received a fully funded fellowship to a French University. He graduated with his PHD in 1978.

Fiber optics involves the use of thin flexible fibers (slightly thicker than a strand of human hair) or other transparent solids to transmit light signals vital in the telephone system, the cable system and of course the internet. Compared to wired cables, fiber optic cables provide higher bandwidth and can transmit data over longer distances with a promise of invisibility.

Dr Mensah in an interview once said that the idea of using laser to send Facebook Pictures to your tablet, and phones had started sometime in 1982.

The technology had been left undeveloped at the Corning Glass Works in New York for about fifteen years until Mensah arrived there in 1983. The optical fibers at the time had a low performance rate, a crucial attenuation limit of 20dB/km that could not be improved because the fragile glass would break at higher speeds.

Mensah also recorded that at the time fiber optics had cost a dollar to a meter while copper was a lot less cheaper at a rate of ten cents, this he said explains the long gap between the discovery of the technology and its mass production.


His first invention at Corning’s eliminated this disparity in rates and made fiber to be just as readily available as copper wires at a rate of 20 meters per second and led to a widespread adoption of the technology in the United Sates. Mensah had noticed that bubbles were being trapped on the coating surface during the curing process and that this in turn led to inefficient losses of data. He solved this problem by injecting carbon dioxide gas near the boundary layer during the high speed coating process.

His second invention gave way to manufacturing strong fiber optics which eventually grew to a rate of about 50 meters per second and which had the ability to be lodged underwater or on submarines to connect cities and continents. Mensah describes this as the reason we can make phone calls to people, and in much later years, send files over the internet.

Mensah achieved success in other areas of science. He has crafted superconductors for space communication, modeled a system for creating solid state rechargeable cell phone batteries, invented new filament wound composite structures to be used as a substitute for tank gun barrels among many other inventions.

Mensah has received seven patents in six years for fiber optics, a feat he admits usually takes as long as ten years to receive one, and a total of fourteen patents.

He is currently developing the first black Disney world, a park based on the concepts of fiber optics.

On how he had fought his way to solving a worldwide problem as a black, African man, Mensah says through the most captivating book title, one we believe to be a creed, a subtle revolution, a prompt of significance in other places;

The Right Stuff Comes in Black Too.


References: Black Inventor

Featured Image: Denver Digest


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This Ghanaian Man Is The Reason We Can Use A Cellphone

by First Culture time to read: 3 min