Thursday, July 28, 2011

Slighting Chris Mpelkas:Cornell's lack of research

Message body

“‘Grow Lux’ are a special type of fluorescent lamp that has been marketed by lighting manufacturers. This type of lamp emits more light in the blue and red portion of the spectrum (the visual output looks somewhat purple) than the standard fluorescent lamp.  Little scientific evidence exists that suggests such light sources are better than a comparable cool white fluorescent light source.”
Please bear with me. I have been reading your online website concerning your successful construction and continuing production in your lettuce house at Ithaca NY. My daughter was a student there while it was under construction and put into production. I have purchased the product at Wegman’s. Congratulations on a great project. However, I have a bone to pick, and you are the contact person on the website.
  Gro-Lux is not “ a lamp marketed by lighting manufacturers”. It is a trademark of Sylvania/GTE. They are the only one’s selling Gro-Lux. It and the Wide Spectrum are specific lamps with a specific set of wave lengths. I’m sorry that you feel no research has been done on the the GRO-Lux and the Wide Spectrum Gro Lights technology that you or Cornell feels is worth mentioning..
Christos C. Mpelkas not only did a life time of research on this lighting technology, he was the driving force behind it’s creation and implementation.. He was in the Army Hydroponic WWII, and designed, coordinated, conducted, catalogued, and consulted on a multitude of experiments for 50 years nationally and world wide by everyone from the Army Food labs at Natick Mass. to urban hydroponic.installations in Japan, Huston Texas, and University of Alaska, 5000’ deep underground research and production facilities in Sudbury Canada, (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, tree seedlings) and the Rocky Mountain Nat. Park for growing replacement tree seedlings for our Nat. Park Service., to mention only a few,  using these lamps.
Chris, who was a plant physiologist and one of the very first photobiologists, also pioneered HID lighting and was involved with many projects with HID, HP sodium, and all other aspects of this field. He knew that the best “Action Spectrum” for biological lighting was a 1:1 ratio of the Standard and the Wide Spectrum Gro Lite’s. They still are! These lamps do not fill all the bills, he was aware of that and so am I .But to ignore the contribution of this man and his work is to make the entire field of food crop production, and us,  somehow smaller and less relevant..
Just because Chris disagreed with Dr.Langhans on his approach to lighting, (Langhan’s received instruction from Chris, by the way) is no reason to disregard him in the history of this technology. Chris was the #1 Pioneer in this field. To have an institution such as Cornell ignore a lifetime of development in this field, especially where Chris’ technology is being used in your lettuce house, is to slight his life’s work, at best. He is listed in Who’s Who, and has been published in ElSevier, Illuminating Engineers of America, countless academic journals and Sylvania Bulletins.  As you are an academic, and writing about this important aspect of growing food crops with indoor lighting seems to be your province, I would expect better from Cornell and their professors, and so would Chris. I’m sorry if I sound perturbed, but I am a little upset that this technology, that has been used since 1958, would be given such short shrift.
Below you will find an email string concerning questions asked of Sylvania/GTE about their programs. Chris was their photobiologist for 40 years, sold millions of lamps, and published hundreds of documents. Please paste the link into your browser for the full exchange. If you desire more information on Chris, please let me know. He was my partner and friend from his retirement until his passing.
Thank You
Dwight S. Collins
Controlled Environment Agriculture Inc
Medford, Ma.
"Jeff Waymouth" <jfwaymouth3@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
I have always wondered what's the story behind the the GROLUX Standard
>> because, when I started growing plants in my apartment in the 70's,
>> that lamp often seemed to be the only available fluorescent plant light
>> in many department stores. There were plant lights from GE available
 I'm afraid I can't answer that question. The only thing that I can say is
> that, for years and years, we had a photobiologist as a part of our staff.
> His name was Christos Mpelkas (Greek, Ionnis!) and knew more about all
> horticultural lighting applications than any person I have ever met.
> He retired about 10 or 15 years ago and died a few years ago.
> If you look deeply into the old engineering bulletins that GTE SYLVANIA put
> out, you will find his name associated with every single one.
> The only thing I can think of is that he knew this was the best
> formulation and insisted upon it.
> By the way, one thing I learned (long ago) from sitting in on one of his
> presentations is that the absolute best blend of light for sprouting and
> growing plants is NOT simply the GROLUX. It is a one for one mix of
GRO_LUX and GROLUX Wide Spectrum. That provides the best red to blue and
> red to far red ratios for general plant illumination.
> A personal thought here, I have never understood how people can talk about
> light for plant growth in terms using footcandles for an intensity curve.
> Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) is a much better measure, since
> footcandles are based on lumens whic are based on the human eye's
> sensitivity curve, which is heavily greeen weighted (peaking at 555nm)
> which is a color are amost plants do not use at all (or how do we see
> their leaves as greeen?)
> Jeff Waymouth
Re: Gro−Lux Standard Phosphor Identification
 Christos C. Mpelkas
Christos C. Mpelkas ’49, 80, of Mansfield, a noted plant physiologist who championed a method of rapidly growing crops without sunlight or soil, died Saturday 6 January, 2001, at Union Hospital inLynn following a short illness.
Mr. Mpelka's quest to grow lettuce, cucumbers, and other crops much faster and more efficiently took him from the deserts of the Middle East and the ravaged countrysides of Europe during World War II to abandoned copper mines in Canada, where he helped grow trees 5,000 feet below ground to , finally, the banks of the Mystic River, where he set up a "farm" in an 8,000-square-foot Medford warehouse.
 A native of Lynn, Mr. Mpelkas earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts atAmherst and a master's degree in plant physiology from the University of Connecticut. During World War II, Mr. Mpelkas served in the European, African, and Middle Eastern theaters and was specialist in an emerging form of agriculture called hydroponics, in which the plants were grown in nutrient-packed solutions instead of soil. He consulted on projects ranging from food factories in Japan to the proposed NASA space station. After retiring in 1990, Mr. Mpelkas helped develop a business called Controlled Environment Agriculture Inc. in Medford.
 He leaves his wife, Angeline (Vlahakis); a daughter, Katherine A. of Lynn; three sons, Charles C. of Norton, John C. of Lancaster, and William C. of Lynn; 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

1 comment:

  1. As I commented on your other page, I am the person who asked Jeff Waymouth questions many years ago in the newsgroup. I learned a lot about fluorescent phosphors from the guys in that group, mostly lighting experts and research lab folk. I found it interesting that Gro-Lux was the only lamp with a red phosphor that actually matched the chlorophyll absorption spectrum. Jeff Waymouth was kind enough to tell me about it AND about Christos C. Mpelkas.