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Imaging moves to centre stage

It’s quite easy to overlook the importance of imaging technology, but the approach – in its various guises – spans applications ranging from space and earth observation imaging to digital cameras and smartphones, via life sciences, machine vision and medical diagnostics.

So it’s entirely appropriate that four people inextricably linked with the development of the technology should have been named joint winners of the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The prize, worth £1million, celebrates ground-breaking innovation in engineering by an individual or team of engineers whose work has had a major impact on humanity.

The judges citation for this year’s Prize said:
“CCD imagers kick started the digital camera industry and are, to this day, the sensor of choice in high-end cameras, particularly in science laboratories on Earth and spacecraft orbiting other planets. CMOS sensors use much less power while still producing excellent images, making them ideal for use in affordable digital cameras and mobile phones.

Digital sensors have enabled high-speed, low-cost colour imaging at a resolution and sensitivity that can exceed that of the human eye. They have dramatically changed the way we communicate, enabling us to share information instantaneously and communicate around the world in real-time, even on our phones.

Image sensor technology has transformed society. Billions of sensors are produced each year to be used in medicine, environmental monitoring, the frontiers of space, transport, security, scientific research, personal communication and entertainment – from sharing photos on social media, to enabling autonomous vehicles, to reporting live video from disaster zones using the small camera on a smartphone. The growing breadth of application to this engineering innovation is breathtaking.”

So congratulations to the winners – Eric Fossum, George Smith, Nobukazu Teranishi and Mike Tompsett.

Graham Pitcher

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