Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Awarded to the Creators of Digital Imaging Sensors

PRNewswire, Time, Dartmouth News: Eric Fossum, George Smith, Nobukazu Teranishi, and Michael Tompsett were announced as the winners of Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for the creation of digital imaging sensors. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a £1 million prize, celebrating world-changing engineering innovations.

The revolution began in the 1970s with the development of the CCD by George Smith and its use in imaging by Michael Tompsett. The CCD is the image sensor inside early digital cameras, converting particles of light, or photons, into electrical signals enabling the image to be stored as digital data. The following decade, Nobukazu Teranishi invented the pinned photodiode (PPD), reducing the size of light-capturing 'pixels' and significantly improving image quality. The development of the CMOS sensor by Eric Fossum in 1992 allowed cameras to be made smaller, cheaper and with better battery life.

Tompsett told TIME that he was in "total shock and awe" when he found out he was a winner of the prize. "I was familiar with the need to make the cameras smaller," he said. "But at that time, did I guess that everyone would one day carry around a sensor in their pockets? No. What's happened over the last 40 or 50 years is the technology has continued to improve - image sensors are now all over the world and are being manufactured by the billions."

In 1992, Fossum developed the CMOS image sensor when working at JPL. "I knew [the CMOS image sensor] would be useful for all kinds of things, but everyday I am still astonished by how widespread the technology is and in how many different places it's being used - from selfies taken by smartphones to pill cameras that can look inside your small intestine," Fossum said. "If I'd known this before I started the company, I probably would have structured things differently - I could have made a lot more money!"

The announcement ceremony is posted on Youtube:

Thanks to AT for the link!


  1. Bravo for our heros !!

  2. Congratulations,
    from Jerry

  3. Congratulations.
    Also noting the contribution of Renshaw, Denyer, Wang, & Lu at VLSI Vision.

  4. This is the text of my acceptance speech:

    It is such a great honor and great pleasure to learn I will be one of the 4 engineers receiving the QE Prize this year. I want to express my gratitude to the QE Prize organization and its distinguished judges, as well as the supporting donors. Thank you so much! Also, thank you to my family for being so supportive over so many years. And thank you to George, Mike and Nobu for letting me stand on your shoulders and advance camera technology from CCDs to CMOS image sensors.

    As I am sure you have all guessed, the CMOS image sensor technology did not get from lightbulb-idea at NASA to your smartphone all by itself. Along the way, R&D by my team at JPL was critical, and I especially want to thank Sabrina Kemeny, Bob Nixon, Suni Mendis and Roger Panicacci. Even more R&D was performed at our startup Photobit and that list is just way too long to name names but thanks to all of you, and especially those of you that immigrated to America to join Photobit, and this is part of what has made America great. Lastly, I want to thank the thousands of engineers in dozens of companies around the globe that have really taken this technology from its early incarnations to the amazing level of performance we see in smartphones and other cameras today. This includes engineers in America, England, Scotland, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, China, South Korea, Taiwan and of course Japan, and I’m sure that is not a complete list. It has truly been a global effort.

    I always try to explain to people that engineering is as much of a creative field as any field of art, except the tools of creation are math and science instead of pens, brushes and musical instruments. We need to nurture young people in the creative art of invention and engineering because this is where solutions to many of the world’s problems will come from in the years ahead. I want to thank the QE Prize for recognizing this critical need and encouraging young people in engineering. I also want to make a special shout out to the US National Inventors Hall of Fame’s Camp Invention for reaching out with programming each year to tens of thousands of elementary students and many of their teachers, and thus nurturing the art of invention. Thank you again!

    1. ...Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada....gosh what other countries did I leave out!

  5. CONGRATULATIONS for Teranishi-san and Fossum-san.
    From your Japanese friend who live in Korea.

  6. 'Especially those of you that immigrated to America to join Photobit, and this is part of what has made America great'
    Nicely said!


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