Congratulations to this year’s Nobel prize in physics recipients!
On Tuesday Oct. 6, 2009 at 11:45 am, the recipients of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics were announced at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. One half of the prize was awarded to Charles K. Kao for his research in glass fiber optics, and the other half of the prize was evenly divided between Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith for their invention of the charge-coupled device, or CCD.
In 1966 with his college George A. Hockham at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, Kao proposed a solution for the then thought implausible transmission of long range information technology. They suggested that impure glass particles inhibited long range light transmissions in optical fibers. By chemically purifying the glass with fused quartz and fused silica, Kao purposed a method of extracting an ultra-thin fiber thread that would carry at least 1% of light over the distance of 1 kilometer. Today this glass fiber optics technology is fused with our everyday lives and employed in various forms (like the internet), allowing for instantaneous transnational and global cable communication.
In 1969, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith of Bell Laboratories discovered the CCD while drafting the proposal for a technological information storage device. What they came up with instead was a light transmission technology, a digital image sensor, based on Albert Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect. When particles of light enter the light sensitive silicone plates, the CCD, electrons in the photocells emit at equal proportions as the incoming light, transferring the incoming optical image into a digital one in the form of pixels; opening the door for even more novel inventions like pixelated digicams, 96 megapixel images of outer planets on the Hubble telescope, and internet porn. The image above is of a star formation called the Orion Nebula. It was taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2006.
For more information about the 2009 Nobel laureates visit the Nobel prize website.