December 9, 2016 by James R. Hagerty, The Wall Street Journal

Larry Fullerton, an electrical engineer and inventor in Alabama, maintained a low profile while obtaining hundreds of patents.

His creations included coin sorters, collision-prevention devices and a way to use radar to guide surgeons removing breast cancer. He filled his home with scientific instruments bought at bargain prices on and at sales of government surplus and unclaimed baggage.

Mr. Fullerton died Nov. 24 at his home in New Hope, near Huntsville, Ala. He was 65 years old and had been suffering from brain cancer.

His home was “an engineer’s play land,” said Alan Petroff, a business partner. “He was curious about everything. When people came to him with a strange problem, chances are he had already thought about it.”

Larry Wayne Fullerton was born Dec. 11, 1950, in Fayetteville, Ark. His father was an officer in the Air Force, and the family was stationed in Germany while he was growing up. The younger Mr. Fullerton earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Arkansas.

Although he worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Texas Instruments Inc. and other employers, Mr. Fullerton spent much of his career creating small companies, including Time Domain and Cedar Ridge Research LLC, to develop his inventions. Time Domain was acquired this year by 5D Robotics Inc.

He was a pioneer of ultra wideband, or UWB, technology, which sends short pulses of energy across a broad swath of the radio spectrum. In one mid-1970s experiment, he used those pulses to transmit songs by the band Chicago from his workbench to a receiver in his backyard.

For a time, UWB was touted as a potential way to make wireless connections of audio, video and other electronic equipment, but it was edged out by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other technologies. Instead, UWB now is used in niches, including as a way to detect intruders, guide robots and prevent collisions of railcars and other equipment. Unlike global-positioning system technologies, it doesn’t rely on satellites and so can work inside tunnels or between tall buildings.

Mr. Fullerton contributed to the research that led to surgical tools sold by Cianna Medical Inc. that help doctors pinpoint breast lesions.

While trying to create toys for his grandchildren, Mr. Fullerton invented ways to use magnets for automatic assembly of parts. Mark Roberts, another partner, said the technology has potential for consumer electronics, aerospace and military applications.

In his final weeks, Mr. Fullerton was working on a device that would identify mosquitoes bearing the Zika virus by measuring the frequency of the beating of their wings.

“There’s always a reason not to do things,” Mr. Fullerton told his children. “You have to look for a reason to do them.”

He is survived by his wife, Susan, two children and three grandchildren.

Write to James R. Hagerty at

Appeared in the December 10, 2016, print edition as 'Larry Fullerton.'



August 2016 (New Hope, Ala.) – A novel process for producing single layer graphene sheets has been invented by CRR’s chief scientist, Larry Fullerton. Cedar Ridge Research (CRR) has received U.S. patent 9,334,168 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the process. It leverages the diamagnetism properties of graphene to synthesize defect-free monolayer graphene as a free-floating structure. The new patent is CRR’s third patent for its free-floating graphene production technology to be issued by the USPTO since May of 2014 and the second to issue within the last six months.

CRR’s process for generating a floating continuous graphene film builds upon the traditional chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. The process involves generating an even plasma distribution to produce a glow discharge of ionized carbon atoms at a desired rate that controls the continuous growth of a graphene film suspended over an alternating polarity magnetic structure having a sufficient gradient to float graphene in a stable manner. The free-floating growth process requires virtually no raw materials or surface preparation and eliminates the metal etching and transfer issues that lead to atomic-scale flaws that reduce efficiency. Graphene film produced using this process can be free of undulations, grain boundaries or defects that may cause uneven build-up of the graphene into a polycrystalline structure. 

The process also enables processing of the graphene during its production including using lasers to draw conductive circuit board traces, applying other atoms using stereo lithography to build nanostructures, and activating carbon and mixing impurities to produce semiconductors.

“Our initial investigations have demonstrated an effective technique to economically produce high quality commercial scale graphene without the use of any growth substrate simply by utilizing the interplay between a magnetic field and the diamagnetic nature of graphene.  This permits the growth of pristine defect-free films and alleviates the need to remove a film from a substrate after it has grown to its desired size and shape,” said Larry Fullerton. 

CRR’s free-floating graphene production technology has the potential for substantially increasing the rate of graphene adoption by enabling volume production of high quality graphene sheets as well as graphene sheets tailored to meet specific application requirements. 

CRR President Mark Roberts said, "We are very excited about receiving this pioneer patent for our free-floating graphene production technology.  We believe it represents a fundamental capability to produce quality graphene sheets in a scalable and cost efficient manner that did not previously exist, and we fully expect that this technology will play a substantial role in the wide scale adoption of graphene as the next super material." 

About Cedar Ridge Research, LLC:

Cedar Ridge Research (CRR) offers a unique blend of innovation expertise across multidisciplinary technology areas and provides a platform to research, develop, protect, and launch challenging technologies that can make an impact. CRR applies a structured innovation and incubation model designed to fast track intellectual property development, protection, and introduction into the market, shorten the R&D lifecycle and maximize market return that is proven to be cost effective and secure.

For more information, please contact:
Mark Roberts at 256-527-2696 or