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This is the 23rd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the Academy...
This is the 23rd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the Academy carries out the responsibilities for which it was established in 1964.
Under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering was formed as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. Members are elected on the basis of significant contributions to engineering theory and practice and to the literature of engineering or on the basis of demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. The National Academies share a responsibility to advise the federal government on matters of science and technology. The expertise and credibility that the National Academy of Engineering brings to that task stem directly from the abilities, interests, and achievements of our members and international members, our colleagues and friends, whose special gifts we remember in this book.
SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY
EMIL PFENDER died January 28, 2016, at age 90. He was a leading contributor to the fundamental science of thermal plasmas and their applications, especially in torch design optimization, plasma-sprayed coatings, and the synthesis of advanced materials. At the time of his death he was emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota.
He was born May 25, 1925, in Dietershausen, a small farming village in southern Germany. He earned his diploma in physics in 1953 and his doctorate in electrical engineering in 1959, both from the Technical University of Stuttgart, where he then became chief assistant and lecturer in the Institute for Gaseous Electronics. In 1961 he spent a year as a visiting scientist at the Plasma Physics Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratories at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
In 1964 he was recruited by Ernst R.G. Eckert to direct the High Temperature Laboratory (now the High Temperature and Plasma Laboratory) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He was hired as an associate professor and became a full professor in 1967. Under his leadership the HTL (HTPL) grew to become one of the most highly regarded plasma research laboratories in the world.
Pfender worked primarily in the area of thermal plasmas, with emphases on plasma heat transfer and plasma processing of materials. He conducted pioneering research on fluid dynamics and heat transfer under plasma conditions using direct current (DC) and radio frequency inductively coupled plasma sources, electrode phenomena, DC torch design for plasma spraying and cutting, plasma spraying to apply protective ceramic coatings to surfaces (for applications ranging from jet engine turbine blades to hip implants), plasma synthesis of ultrafine powders (later termed nanoparticles), modeling and diagnostics, and chemical vapor deposition. He was among the first to simulate dynamics of the arc in a DC plasma torch, using a three-dimensional, transient, local thermodynamic equilibrium mathematical model with a variational multiscale numerical approach. He also developed processes for using thermal plasmas to deposit thin films and coatings of diamond.
His 1967 publication, with Eckert, of “Advances in Plasma Heat Transfer” in Advances in Heat Transfer (Academic Press Inc.), became a fundamental and frequently cited reference in this area. In 1980, with Stanislav Vepřek of the University of Zürich, he cofounded the journal Plasma Chemistry and Plasma Processing and served for 25 years as its coeditor in chief. With Maher I. Boulos, of the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, and Pierre Fauchais, of the University of Limoges in France, Pfender coauthored volume 1 of the textbook Thermal Plasmas: Fundamentals and Applications (Plenum Press, 1994). This work remains a standard reference for researchers in the field.
In 1995 Pfender was the first recipient of the Plasma Chemistry Award, then given by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and subsequently by the International Plasma Chemistry Society after its founding in 2000. Given to a single individual once every 2 years, it is the society’s highest award and recognizes lifetime achievement in plasma chemistry. He was recognized as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1981, and received the Alexander von Humboldt Award of the German government (1978) and a certificate of recognition from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1996).
He formally retired from the university in 2000, but as emeritus professor he remained up to the time of his death an active member of the graduate faculty in mechanical engineering, coadvising several PhD students and collaborating with Boulos and Fauchais on volume 2 of their textbook.
Emil Pfender and his wife Maja were married in 1954. Throughout their marriage, rarely a week went by without their hosting students or colleagues for a gourmet meal. Sometimes the menu included wild venison, pheasant, or moose, a result of Pfender’s hunting passion. He also enjoyed forestry and was a connoisseur of fine wine.
In addition to Maja, he is survived by sons Roland and Norbert, daughter Corinne, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
He was known to his friends and colleagues as a true gentle man, unfailingly gracious, humble, and generous.