You may have had Dr. Kent Cueman for a Physics class. Or, you’ve probably seen him at a Pizza My Mind event. But I bet you didn’t know that Dr. Cueman just received his 26th US patent.
Getting an invention patented is a very long process. First you write up a report about your idea, which is sent to a committee within an industry – in Dr. Cueman’s case, General Electric. The committee discusses whether or not the idea is worth spending the money, because getting a patent is very expensive. Next, you meet with a lawyer, who will help write out the idea in “legal language.” The new report is mailed the government who will spend several years analyzing, debating, and challenging the idea. Finally, at the very end, the inventor gets a letter in the mail congratulating them on their new patent.
This most recent patent has been eight years in the making. His invention deals with reverse osmosis, making sea water into drinking water. Companies that make bottled water and soda all use a version of this product. Dr. Cueman’s idea involved taking a sheet of paper-like material that will allow water molecules to go through, but trap the salt. The membrane is wrapped with layers of material that have channels in it, and stuffed into a tube. At one end of the tube, high pressured salt water is inserted and on the other end, it is separated into pure water, and more concentrated salt water. Dr. Cueman invented a new way to stuff the material inside the tube to increase the amount of purified water that is produced.
Before he came to CNU, Dr. Cueman worked in many different fields, including marine science, newspaper journalism, service as an Air Force officer, and industrial research. All of his patents involve applying physics to industrial problems – how to make things, or how to inspect them. He has worked on projects range from light switches to nuclear reactors. The project he enjoyed the most was working with locomotives, creating a cleaner diesel engine.