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Mining Professor Elected to the National Academy of Inventors

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Mining Professor Elected to the National Academy of Inventors

Feb. 16, 2023
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Moe Momayez strives to continually improve the world through sustainability.

The National Academy of Inventors has named 95 inventors to its list of the world’s top emerging academic inventors, designating them as Senior Members. Among these is Moe Momayez, professor of mining and geological engineering.

The NAI also selected professor Ronnguang Liang of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences and the UA Cancer Center and associate research professor Vijay Gokhale at the BIO5 Institute. All three awardees have worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the university that commercializes inventions stemming from research and innovation, to commercialize the novel discoveries stemming from their work.

“It’s wonderful to see more of our UArizona inventors receiving this honor,” said Doug Hockstad, associate vice president of TLA. “All three have worked closely with TLA to grow the impact of their research and inventions, and we look forward to continuing that relationship and supporting the vision for a better world."

Since the NAI introduced the Senior Member designation in 2019, the UA has had 19 faculty members awarded the designation.

“Generating an impact is part and parcel of our culture at the University of Arizona,” said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. “Beyond producing peer-reviewed publications and advancing the workforce through education and training of graduate students, these faculty inventors have also added real value to our region through patenting and licensing. I am thrilled to see each of them receive this richly deserved recognition from the National Academy of Inventors.”

Toward Safer, Cleaner Mining Practices

In a field of finite resources that generate a negative environmental impact by its very nature, Momayez has brought his innovative and academic expertise to bear on creating sustainable practices across the mining space. He has dedicated his career to the development of new technologies to improve mine safety and productivity, with a focus on miner health and safety, characterization of geomaterials, energy and process efficiency, and renewable energy.

Momayez has three issued U.S. patents and two pending patent applications. He has worked with TLA to license inventions into multiple startups, including Guía, LLC; Caltrode, Inc.; Acrete Pte, Ltd.; MetOxs Electrochemicals; and Auxilium Technology Group.

“As a researcher, you use your knowledge, experience, and imagination to work on novel approaches to complex issues, design groundbreaking new technologies and products, and improve people's lives,” Momayez said. “Our job as inventors is to never stop trying to improve the world we live in.”

One of his research and development focuses has been the storage and use of mine tailings. To reduce evaporation and increase the amount of water for reuse, he developed a system of floating, interlocking panels to cover tailings ponds. The panels can be outfitted with solar panels to generate power. He also developed a spray-on thermal insulating geofoam made with mine tailings. When applied to the walls in hot underground mines, the geofoam provides a layer of insulation that prevents heat from radiating from the rock into the working areas, significantly reducing the cost of cooling the air. Both technologies were licensed to Auxilium Technology Group.

“A senior membership in the National Academy of Inventors is a prestigious distinction that recognizes an individual's extraordinary achievements in invention and innovation,” he said. “I am elated and humbled to be included in this august group.”

The NAI Senior Member Designation

To be designated a Senior Member of the NAI, nominees must be active, renowned scientists and administrators with demonstrated success in patents, licensing inventions, and the commercialization of those inventions with the goal of generating real and measurable societal impact. They also have growing success in patents, licensing, and commercialization, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

This latest class of NAI Senior Members, the largest to date, demonstrates a shared commitment to celebrating the diversity of the academic ecosystem, with 48 outstanding female and/or minority academic inventors included. Hailing from 50 NAI member institutions and research universities across the nation, this impressive class are named inventors on over 1200 issued U.S. patents with many of those being licensed and commercialized.

Gokhale, Momayez, and Liang will be celebrated with the rest of the 2023 class of Senior Members at NAI’s annual meeting, Diversifying Innovation for a Strong Economy and a Sustainable Future, taking place in June in Washington, D.C.