Image sensor inventors win £1 million prize

February 09, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Four engineers who between them made a series of innovations that enabled the development of the modern CMOS image sensor have been awarded the Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering.

The four engineers, who share a prize worth £1 million, are Eric Fossum, George Smith, Nobukashu Teranishi and Michael Tompsett.

They were announced as the winners today by Lord Browne of Madingley, chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize Foundation at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.

Queen Elizabeth Prize winners (l-r) Nobukashu Teranishi, George Smith, Michael Tompsett and Eric Fossum

The imaging revolution began in the 1970s with the development of the charge-coupled device (CCD) by George Smith and Willard Boyle (now deceased). The original motivation for its development was as a computer memory component but Michael Tompsett was able to subsequently pioneer its use in imaging. In the 1980s, Nobukazu Teranishi invented the pinned photodiode, which reduced the size of light-capturing pixels allowing larger arrays of pixels and improving the quality of images. In 1992 Eric Fossum developed the CMOS-compatible image sensor which allowed a considerable reduction in cost of production and power consumption and allowed the explosive growth in deployment seen today.

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