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Laminar-flow cleanroom inventor honored posthumously by National Inventors Hall of Fame

within a few short years, $50 billion worth of laminar-flow cleanrooms were built worldwide and Whitfield had been dubbed "Mr. Clean" by TIME Magazine.

Belva Whitfield said her late husband was always modest about his invention and the accolades he received didn't change the unassuming scientist.

"This honor means a great deal to me," she said. "I have always been so proud of Willis and his accomplishments. It is hard to say how proud I am because I don't think words are enough to express my feelings."

Belva Whitfield said her late husband would have had underlying feelings of great appreciation to be in the Inventors Hall of Fame, though outwardly he would have remained modest. "He would certainly be honored that he was in the company of Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Samuel Morse, Wilbur and Orville Wright and so many more," she said.

Whitfield's likeness can be seen in a bronze statue that graces an entrance to Sandia's Microsystems & Engineering Science Applications (MESA) complex, where cleanrooms and clean benches based on Sandia's invention are used to manufacture precision mechanical assemblies in microsystems for national security needs.

MESA also is home to Whitfield's original lab notebooks containing diagrams of his invention and his notes as his research unfolded.

Whitfield began creating the laminar-flow cleanroom to improve the reliability of miniature mechanical components for Sandia parts. But the invention enabled the growth of the semiconductor industry, which in turn made modern electronics, computers and information technologies possible. Cleanrooms also contributed to breakthroughs in biotechnology, nanotechnology, health sciences and healthcare.

History of Sandia invention

In 1959, nuclear weapons components mainly mechanical switching parts were becoming smaller and microscopic dust particles were preventing Sandia from achieving the quality needed, Sandia hist

Contact: Heather Clark
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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