T. Peter Brody, George H. Heilmeier, Wolfgang Helfrich, and Martin Schadt will receive the Charles Stark Draper Prize — a $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society — “for the engineering development of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that is utilized in billions of consumer and professional devices.”
The Liquid crystal display (LCDs) is used by virtually everyone in the modern world on a daily basis. It is the medium through which people get information from a variety of everyday devices – including calculators, clocks, computer monitors, smart phones, and television screens. T. Peter Brody, George H. Heilmeier, Wolfgang Helfrich, and Martin Schadt each made substantial contributions to its development.
George Heilmeier discovered the dynamic scattering mode (DSM), which resulted in the first operational LCD. Liquid crystals are materials that have properties of both liquids and crystals. DSM allows them to scatter light when a voltage is applied. Shortly after Heilmeier’s discovery, DSM LCDs could be widely found in watches and calculators.
Taking cues from Heilmeier’s work, Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt invented the twisted nematic (TN) field effect of liquid crystal displays. Unlike the DSM, the twisted nematic field effect electrically controls the polarization state of transmitted light of LCDs. It requires virtually no power and small electric fields. The contrast of light is very large, allowing short switching from dark to bright and vice versa. Helfrich and Schadt’s discovery of the TN allowed for the practical use of LCDs in nearly all of today’s flat panel LCD applications.
T. Peter Brody created the active matrix (AM) drive, which enabled an array of new capabilities for LCDs. Such capabilities consist of the display of high resolution motion pictures combined with fast response which are prerequisites for television. Brody’s AM LCD opened the door for further LCD advancements in television, including color filters and brightness-enhancement films.
T. Peter Brody worked at Westinghouse, where he discovered the first active matrix displays. He later started his own firm, Panelvision, and then went on to become the president and CEO of Amedeo. In addition to his contributions to LCD technology, his numerous patents include a low-cost color filter process and a high-resolution printing process. Brody is also the co-founder of the Advantech in-line fabrication process, designed to create backplanes for the next generation of OLED displays. Brody passed away in September 2011; the award will be presented to his family.
George Heilmeier joined RCA in 1958 where he discovered the dynamic scattering- and a guest-host electro-optical effect in liquid crystals. After serving as a White House fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense, he was appointed Assistant Director for Defense Research and Engineering, Electronic and Physical Sciences. From 1974 to 1977, Heilmeier was the director of the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA). He then became senior vice president and chief technical officer at Texas Instruments. Heilmeier later served as the president and CEO of Bellcore, and eventually as chairman and chairman emeritus.
Wolfgang Helfrich, while at RCA, set up a theory of conduction-induced alignment of nematic liquid crystals as a first step towards a theory of dynamic scattering. In 1970 he joined Hoffmann-LaRoche where he and Martin Schadt began their cooperation. Afterwards he accepted a professorship at the Free University of Berlin. Since then his theoretical and experimental research centered on fluid bilayer membranes and their vesicles. .
Martin Schadt patented the first organic light emitting display (OLED) in 1969 as a post doc fellow at Canada’s National Research Council. He then joined the Laboratoire Suisse de Recherche Horlogère at Neuchâtel of Omega. Two years later he became a member of the newly founded research group at the Central Research Center of Hoffmann-La Roche working on liquid crystal field-effects and LC-materials. He was appointed head of the liquid crystal department inventing many new electro-optical effects, commercial liquid crystal materials and the photo-polymer liquid crystal alignment technology. From 1994 he headed the spin-off company Rolic Ltd. as its CEO. He is active as a scientific adviser to governments and industrial research groups.