Physics Professor David Grier, who has pioneered technologies for organizing and probing matter with computational holography, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Tractor beam
David Grier, a professor in the Department of Physics at NYU and a founding member of NYU’s Center for Soft Matter Research, and his colleagues developed methods to harness forces exerted by computer-designed holograms to trap and organize matter, including creating the world’s first functioning tractor beams (above).

New York University Professor David Grier, who has pioneered technologies for organizing and probing matter with computational holography, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the organization announced today.

“The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society,” the Academy said in announcing this year’s fellows.

Grier, a professor in the Department of Physics at NYU and a founding member of NYU’s Center for Soft Matter Research, and his colleagues developed methods to harness forces exerted by computer-designed holograms to trap and organize matter, including creating the world’s first functioning tractor beams. The holographic approach to micromanipulation has a range of practical applications, ranging from automated medical diagnostics to such long-term possibilities as collecting dust samples from comet tails.

Grier has also spearheaded inventions in holographic imaging, most notably to measure the properties of microscopic particles dispersed in fluids. This technology for holographic particle characterization is embedded in an instrument, xSight, created by Spheryx, a New York-based company Grier co-founded that enables manufacturers to monitor particle properties in the products they produce, thereby delivering better, cheaper, and safer products to consumers at reduced cost. xSight has been deployed for biopharmaceutical manufacturing, semiconductor processing, food production, wastewater management, and oil refining with other potential application areas under development. Because manufacturers can now see their basic components via holograms, they no longer have to fly blind when designing, creating, and delivering their products.

A Packard Fellow, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum, Grier holds 65 U.S. patents and 73 published U.S. patent applications in holographic optical trapping, holographic video microscopy, and data communication using holographically twisted waves with practical applications ranging from healthcare to space exploration.

The 2019 Fellows represent 136 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide and collectively hold over 3,500 issued U.S. patents.

Grier has a has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University and a doctorate in physics from the University of Michigan.

In April, Grier and other 2019 NAI Fellows will be inducted as part of the annual NAI Conference of the National Academy of Inventors in Phoenix, Ariz.