Scientists and their lasers (Vaughn Davis)
At a young age, Vaughn Davis recognized his entrepreneurial zeal when he used proceeds from his paper route to start a lawn mowing business. By the time he graduated high school, he had hired two classmates and two teachers to work for him. “I always knew I wanted to be in business for myself. This is where it all began”, stated Vaughn. Vaughn's physics class is where his fascination with lasers started. He was instructed to do a project using light, so he chose to research optical gyroscopes using a laser. Bell Labs, located in New Jersey, provided guidance and encouragement for Vaughn on this project.
Vaughn completed his chemical engineering degree at Vanderbilt University, and went on to receive an MBA in International Marketing from Louisiana State University. Armed with his degrees and his entrepreneurial attitude, Vaughn started Progression, Inc in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Established in 2002, Progression develops process control instrumentation for the use in the power generation, petrochemical, mining and biofuels markets.
Although Vaughn is busy with expanding Progression into new markets, he does have fun. He learned to play the classical piano when he was 5 years old, eventuating an impromptu performance in a Paris hotel lobby on New Year's Eve, 1997.
Another hobby of Vaughn's is spending days on his 500 acre farm that he shares with his dad in Rockford, Ohio. He harvests corn, wheat and soybeans. A great memory of his was growing popcorn for the first time in 2010. His love for farming has carried over to a much smaller scale in the backyard of his home in York, Maine. On his 1 acre lot he has grown 62 varieties of plants, as well as raspberries, blueberries, lima beans, green beans and pumpkins. In 2010, he grew a 60 pound pumpkin! The feature of his garden that Vaughn is most proud of is the traditional New England rock wall that he built, by hand, to encompass it.
To optimally characterize and efficiently burn coal, the measurement of the constituents (moisture, hydrogen, ash) is required. In the past, it would take 40 hours to get an ASTM laboratory test result for ash. Vaughn had the idea to use lasers to get real-time process control measurements of coal. To further his knowledge on Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), Vaughn visited the Idaho National Engineering Lab.
Progression’s solution for real-time measurement of moisture content, hydrogen content, total ash and ash constituents consists of a ruggedized module incorporating both Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and LIBS measurement systems.
This module is impervious to dust and reliability is a key component as it is placed in mines and coal burning plants. Progression uses the CFR 400 (model C1064E330R010LN) for their system.
Progression’s process monitoring allows more efficient burning of coal and mitigates the coating of boiler tubes. The process measurement results in at least a 1% improvement in efficiency which saves US$1,750,000 per 100 Mw and reduces CO2 by 44,000 tons/year.
This makes good financial and environmental sense. Future LIBS projects include characterization of biofuels and precious / nonprecious minerals.
- R&D 100 Award 2003: MagModule II nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyzer with a 90% reduction in size.
- Simmons SL and Davis VE (2005) On-line Measurement at Phosphate Chemical Plants. Progression Inc.