Campus: CSU Northridge -- July 29, 2005
Engineering Professor Wins Patents for High Tech Digital Data Devices
A determination to see if he could still do "high level technical
work" and four summers dedicated to research, have earned Cal State
Northridge electrical and computer engineering professor Ray Pettit
rare first-round approvals from the U.S. Patent Office for two patents
that improve satellite-to-submarine communications.
S. T. Mau, dean of CSUN's College of Engineering and Computer Science,
said Pettit has been at the forefront of communications security research
throughout a long and distinguished career. "These two patents
are the latest examples of his contribution to secure communication
with special applications to submarine/satellite links."
The patents grew from Pettit's frustration with his job in the late
1990s; when the paperwork kept coming, his computer was jammed with
high priority e-mail and the phone's constant buzzing had begun to work
on his last nerve.
In 1999, Ray Pettit decided his brain needed a creative lift. "I
wondered, if I could still do high level technical work."
He was determined to find out.
An expert in the fields of statistical estimation theory and statistical
detection theory with Pentagon research experience, Pettit spent the
next four summers putting in nine-hour days in a program sponsored by
the American Society for Engineering Educators at The Space and Naval
Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego. The assignment was simple:
look at satellite-to-submarine communications and find a way to improve
Pettit's work at SPAWAR led to inventions whose elegance won him rare
first-round approval from the U.S. Patent Office, which in May 2005
awarded him two patents without the questions and challenges typical
of the grueling three-year patent process.
Pettit's work involved the transmission of highly sensitive digital
data messages--a go-to-war message from a commander-in-chief, for example--from
satellite to submarine or to some other recipient requiring inviolable
His new Frequency Synchronizer and its companion Simultaneous-Frequency-and-Phase
Synchronizer enable transmissions that are faster and more reliable,
and that can carry more data with fewer errors "even if the enemy
is trying to jam the works."
Since satellites do not have room for large equipment, Pettit had to
work with small transmitters whose limited power loses energy over long
He developed a way to "hype" sensitive transmissions--fool
the enemy into identifying them as mere noise. "This is called
spread spectrum techniques," he explained, "the very things
that are in today's cell phones."
The technology represented by the patents has broad potential for commercial
applications as well as other military high-performance satellite communications
Pettit said the intellectual sparks that flew at SPAWAR reinvigorated
his appetite for academia. "I'm now 72 years old, and it's thrilling
to me that at this age I could run rings around some of those young
guys down there," he laughed. "It was very challenging, very
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