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 them.

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 security.

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 distances.

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 systems.

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 mathematical work."

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130, carmen.chandler@csun.edu


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