Thomas Thundat

Dr. Thomas Thundat is a Professor of Empire Innovation, who is focusing on developing high performance, networked sensor systems for real-time monitoring of chemical and biological analytes.

Thundat’s research is focused on developing novel physical, chemical, and biological sensors based on nanomechanics, integrated sensors, and networked sensor systems. He is also working on novel methods for energy conversion and transmission of electricity using single wire and single contact.  His expertise includes physics and chemistry of interfaces, molecular adsorption on engineered interfaces, interaction of light with adsorbed molecules, solid-liquid interface, scanning probes, nanoscale phenomena, and quantum confined atoms.  His research cross-cuts all research focus areas of the RENEW Institute.

Sensors play critical roles in a modern society touching every aspect of our daily lives with applications ranging from manufacturing and commercial products to health care, military, energy and environment. Thomas’s research has resulted in demonstration of many high performance sensor (physical, chemical, and biological) platforms and concepts based on atomic and molecular level interface engineering leading to enhanced sensor performance and control.  Networking a large number of sensors for simultaneously detect parameters and road/weather conditions could result in enhanced performance, reduced environmental footprint, and increased safety. 

Over a century ago, Nikola Tesla proposed a different mode of electricity transmission using only a single wire without a return conductor.   Dr. Thundat’s research has successfully demonstrated a similar concept for delivering electrical power to all kinds of devices using single wire electrical standing waves with high-efficiency and can be used to power a network of sensors.  This quasi-wireless transmission of power is well suited for applications in vehicles, robotics, factories, smart homes, wearables and could be incorporated into energy-efficient manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and in monitoring environmental pollution of all kinds. 

Dr. Thundat holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the State University of New York at Albany, and a Master’s degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has authored over 400 publications in refereed journals, 57 conference proceedings, 15 book chapters, and 40 US patents.  He serves on editorial boards of many journals. Thundat is the recipient of many awards that include the U.S. Department of Energy’s Young Scientist Award, three R&D 100 Awards, ASME Pioneer Award, Discover Magazine Award, Scientific American 50 Award, Jesse Beams Medal, Nano 50 Award, multiple national awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for excellence in technology transfer. Oak Ridge National Laboratory named him Inventor of the Year two times. He is also a Battelle Distinguished Inventor. Thundat is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), the Electrochemical Society (ECS), the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Society for Optical and Photonics Engineers (SPIE), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).