Roe-Hoan Yoon, a University Distinguished Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering and director of the Center of Advanced Separation Technologies, has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Yoon will join an elite group of NAI fellows at the university, including Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and X.J. Meng, a University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology. 

"Dr. Yoon is an internationally recognized researcher and inventor who has made outstanding contributions and addressed critical challenges in the field of mining and minerals processing,” said Sands. “He has inspired many young engineers to become academic and industry leaders and we are honored to count him as an esteemed faculty member since 1978. The university congratulates him on this well-deserved recognition."

Yoon is internationally known for significant contributions to advancing the technology and science of mineral processing, fine particle separation and dewatering, column flotation, chemistry of sulfide mineral flotation, fine particle dewatering, and colloid and surface chemistry. 

With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, Yoon developed and patented the microbubble flotation process, which has been marketed commercially under the name Microcel. The coal industry regards it as one of the best technologies for separating fine particles.

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Since the 1980s, Yoon, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and his colleagues at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering have developed various advanced separation processes for the minerals and coal industries, including microbubble flotation, dewatering aids, hyberbaric centrifuge, and hydrophobic-hydrophilic separation.

Earlier this year, he received a lifetime achievement award for innovation from Virginia Tech. The award recognizes researchers who work on new discoveries and develop technologies that can be commercialized to have the widest economic and human impacts.

“Dr. Yoon’s 40-plus-year tenure at Virginia Tech has included several successful commercial endeavors. Clean coal technology that benefits the environment, and our economy has been at the forefront of his work,” Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui said upon presenting the award. He “embodies the cooperation between academic research and innovation.”

In addition to his commercial successes, the Nicholas T. Camicia Professor has published more than 440 technical papers and has more than 33 U.S. patents. To date, Yoon has advised 41 doctoral students to completion, and 10 of them teach at universities.

The National Academy of Inventors was founded in 2010 “to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.”

This year's cohort of NAI fellows also includes Rafael Davalos, the L. Preston Wade Professor in biomedical engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering.

NAI fellows hold more than 48,000 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 1 million jobs. In addition, over $3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI fellow discoveries.

Yoon received his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from McGill University and a bachelor's degree in mining engineering from Seoul National University.

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