Bernard J. Lechner, T. Peter Brody and Fang-Chen Luo, Forefathers of Flat-Panel Display Technology, to Receive 2011 IEEE Jun-ichi Nishizawa Medal
Contributions Provided the Foundation for Today’s Popular Flat Panel Displays
10 August 2011 – Bernard J. Lechner, T. Peter Brody and Fang-Chen Luo, engineers whose early work on liquid-crystal display technology for television pictures set the stage for the proliferation of today’s flat-screen televisions, monitors and mobile phones, are being honored by IEEE with the 2011 IEEE Jun-ichi Nishizawa Medal. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association.
The medal, sponsored by the Federation of Electric Power Companies, Japan, and the Semiconductor Research Foundation, recognizes Lechner, Brody and Luo for pioneering contributions to thin-film-transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). The medal will be presented on 20 August 2011 at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in San Francisco, Calif.
Hundreds of engineers have contributed to the innovations responsible for the current success of TFT LCDs used in today’s televisions, laptops and mobile phones. However, it was the pioneering contributions and persistent efforts of Lechner and Brody in the 1960s and Luo in the 1970s that set the stage for the technology we see today. The trio overcame the initial limitations of using liquid crystals to display complex moving images to make the dream of being able to hang a television on the wall a reality.
Working at RCA Laboratories during the 1960s, Lechner was the first to analyze the limitations of early liquid crystal cells, which had poor responsivity in handling complex images. As an alternative to simple matrix addressing, Lechner pursued active matrix addressing schemes. He conceived the basic idea of associating a field-effect transistor (FET) and a capacitor with each cell of a LCD panel to selectively store and control the brightness of the cell. In 1968, using a 36-element LCD, he was able to show that the active matrix concept had the capability for television display of the future. He first published this concept at the IEEE Internationals Solid State Circuit Conference, pp. 51-52, February 1969. It could not be built as an integrated structure at the time, but Lechner’s transistor-capacitor storage circuit is what is used in today’s LCDs. Despite Lechner’s promising discoveries, RCA abandoned its pursuit of LCD television.
Working at Westinghouse during the 1970s, Brody and Luo extended Lechner’s active matrix work, and, based on CdSe TFT technology developed by Brody during the 1960s, produced the first LCDs employing an integrated array of TFTs. Brody led the research group for which Luo fabricated the displays. In 1974 they presented a 6-inch by 6-inch display consisting of 120 by 120 pixels. Although modest by today’s standards, given the technology available to them at the time it was a great achievement. No longer did the industry have to wonder if the technology was possible, it could now focus on improving the technology and making it more cost-effective. In 1982, Brody formed Panelvision; he was joined later by Luo. The firm was the first to offer commercial TFT LCDs.
An IEEE Life Fellow, Lechner is also a Life Fellow of the Society for Information Display (SID) and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). His honors include the SID Frances Rice Darne Award, the Advanced Television Systems Committee Outstanding Achievement Award (now called the Bernard J. Lechner Award) and the SMPTE Progress Medal. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, New York, N.Y. Lechner is currently a consultant residing in Princeton, N.J.
Brody is a Society for Information Display (SID) Fellow. His honors include the SID Braun Prize, the Eduard Rhein Foundation Prize and the Rank Prize. He received his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University of London, U.K. He is currently the chief technology officer of Advantech US Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.
An IEEE Life Member, Luo is also a Fellow of Society for Information Display. His honors include the SID Special Recognition Award, the Outstanding Industrial Innovation Award and the Gold Panel Award, both from the Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Luo is currently chief intellectual property officer and vice president at AU Optronics Corp., Hsinchu, Taiwan.