OPTT profiles: Curtis Baffes

Curtis Baffes disclosed his whiffletree flange sealing idea to the Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer in 2017.

A whiffletree is a mechanism that distributes force evenly through a system of linkages. Whiffletrees have long been used to connect draught animals to a load, ensuring that each animal takes an equal share of the work. Many automobile windshield wipers feature whiffletrees to distribute the force of the wiper arm evenly across the blade.

Curtis has used whiffletrees to support large telescope optics that would otherwise warp under their own weight. He drew inspiration from this to invent a specialty flange sealing technology that uses fewer fasteners (for example, one fastener rather than six or eight). This flange could reduce worker exposure and improve reliability in high-radiation applications.

Aaron Sauers is Fermilab’s patent and licensing executive.