Tuesday, October 06, 2009

CCD Inventors Willard Boyle and George Smith Got Nobel Prize

Yahoo: CCD inventors Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics with the fiber optics inventor Charles K. Kao. The award's 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) purse will be split between the three with Kao taking half and Boyle and Smith each getting a fourth.

In its citation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that Boyle and Smith "invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD."

Boyle, in a phone call to the academy, said he is reminded of his work with Smith "when I go around these days and see everybody using our little digital cameras, everywhere. Although they don't use exactly our CCD, it started it all."

He added that the biggest achievement resulting from his work was when images of Mars were transmitted back to Earth using digital cameras. "We saw for the first time the surface of Mars," Boyle said. "It wouldn't have been possible without our invention."


  1. There's a nice recent paper at NIMA vol. 607 (April'09) by G.E. Smith about the invention of the CCD with some nice photographs of the first devices. Maybe Elsevier could make it available for free?

    Link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TJM-4W0XB5T-7&_user=799533&_coverDate=08%2F01%2F2009&_rdoc=8&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info%28%23toc%235314%232009%23993929998%231316051%23FLA%23display%23Volume%29&_cdi=5314&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=83&_acct=C000043657&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=799533&md5=a9fc8449a837edbf9f19ce4cf8910d4e

  2. This is astounding news. Image sensors have pretty much been in a dark corner of the engineering stage for many years. This brings a new level of attention and credibility to this interdisciplinary field. It is great news for all of us.

  3. At least one can see figures for free - just click on Figures/Tables tab in the link. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Actually, I had some more thoughts. I don't want to be a curmudgeon, but for those not brought up on CCDs, I note that the Boyle's comment about the Mars pics is not complete.
    While the Boyle and Smith CCD (or CTD) was important, equally important was the floating diffusion amplifier to readout the CCD (Walter Kosonocky), the use of correlated double sampling (CDS) which Marvin White adapted from RADAR technology, the buried channel (many simultaneous fathers), the use of pinning layers (Jerry Hynecek), the pinned photodiode (Nobu Teranishi). scientific device fabrication technology (Blouke, Bredthauer, etc.) and probably a few more crucial inventions and developments that turned the Bell Labs device from a PISO light-sensitive device into a real and useful image capture device that was better than digitizing a vidicon output.

    We all stand on the shoulders of these giants.

  5. Noteworthy in the press release from the Nobel committee are the two references: one is Jim Janesick's "Bible" of CCD technology. I think Jim also deserves a place in that history.


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