BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Nobel honours ‘masters of light’
Fibre optic pioneers to share Nobel physics prize – The Local (Sweden)
My comments on these Nobel Prizes
These Nobel Prize awards have become a celebration of two major technologies that are part of our everyday IT and lives
Charge-Coupled Device image sensor
One award went to Willard Boyle and George Smith who had developed the charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor which has become a watershed technology for image and movie capture to electronic media. Previously, video cameras were tube-based, which made them heavy, power-efficient beasts which were out of the financial reach of most of us and were more fragile. The chip-based solid-state image sensor had led initially to lightweight video cameras and camcorders that most of us could afford. This image sensor has also led to a cost-effective version based on a CMOS design allowing for cheaper digital and video cameras. It also led to the digital-camera revolution which allowed us to grab images on a reusable electronic media rather than film and also ushered in the webcam.
Now every video or digital camera that you encounter in your lives is based on that technology, whether it be the digital camera that you can take many snaps with, the closed-circuit camera in the shopping centre or freeway, or the TV cameras that bring us the vision that appear on the TV screens each day and night. This technology has assisted with astronomy in the form of the Hubble Space Telescope yielding the highly-detailed images of space and cameras sent out as part of the space missions to Mars.
The other award went to Charles Kao who had developed the concept of fibre optics, which is the transmission of light over a glass fibre. This technology initially was about decorative lighting but had yielded great advances in telecommunications and medicine.
In the medical field, this technology allowed for endoscopy which permitted improved diagnosis, especially of the digestive tract. It also allowed for “keyhole surgery” which allowed operations to be performed without the need to cut large incisions in the patient.
The telecommunications and IT sector benefited from the concept of using these fibres to transmit large data over long distances. This technology even is the backbone of the Internet and is becoming a solution for moving large amounts of data to the end-user’s home or business premises in the form of optical-fibre broadband services.
The technology is also being used in the AV sector to transmit digital audio between devices like DVD players and home-theatre receivers. It is because of the ability to avoid ground loops and other interference traps between the components.
At least the Nobel Prize is being used as a tool for recognizing these technologies that are part of the connected lifestyle.