The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has announced that three of its Life Fellows – Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith – have received the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics. The three scientists have been recognized for breakthroughs involving the transmission of light in fiber optics and inventing an imaging semiconductor circuit – technologies behind digital photography and fiber-optic networks.
Acknowledged for his 1966 discovery that showed how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibers, Kao helped build the framework for modern broadband communication networks that carry today’s high-speed Internet data and phone calls around the world.
Working together, Boyle and Smith invented the first imaging technology using a digital sensor, a charged-coupled device (CCD). CCD technology has revolutionized photography so that light could be captured electronically (in the form of pixels) instead of on film.