NAE Honors CCD Inventors with Prestigious Prize

CAMBRIDGE , Mass. (from release) - On Tuesday, the National Academy of Engineering presented the 2006 Charles Stark Draper Prize to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, inventors of charge-coupled devices (CCDs), in Washington, D.C. Boyle and Smith share the $500,000 prize for inventing CCDs-imaging sensors that convert light to digital data. CCDs are widely used in consumer products, such as camcorders and cell phone cameras, as well as in advanced electronic imaging tools, such as telescopes and imaging satellites.

Boyle and Smith invented CCDs, the first practical solid-state imaging devices, in 1969 by while working at Bell Laboratories. Because CCDs are silicon-based devices, they are fairly inexpensive to produce, compact, and fairly rugged, making them suitable for commercial product use. Their high sensitivity, excellent stability, and lack of distortion make CCDs attractive for use in scientific research imaging systems. CCDs are capable of imaging a variety of sources, including optical, x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared emissions.

CCDs work by converting light into a pattern of electronic charge in a silicon chip. The charge is collected, measured, and eventually converted into an image file to be stored on a computer. These electronic devices generate electrical charge that is proportionate in strength to the intensity of light striking each area of the silicon and can be sensitive enough to measure a single electron. CCDs have found widespread use in science in general and in astronomy in particular. Today, no major observatory lacks a CCD camera, given their exceptional light-sensitive properties.

The NAE's citation for the 2006 Draper Prize reads, "for the invention of the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD), a light-sensitive component at the heart of digital cameras and other widely used imaging technologies." The Draper Prize was presented at a gala dinner on Feb. 21 with the Bernard M. Gordon Prize, which recognizes innovation in engineering and technology education. For more information about the 2006 Draper Prize and Gordon Prize, see the press release from The National Academies.

The Draper Prize was endowed by The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., to honor the memory of its founder, Dr. Charles Stark Draper, and to raise awareness of the public contributions of engineering. An annual award, the Draper Prize recognizes practical achievements that have advanced human welfare and freedom. In addition to the honorarium, recipients receive a gold medal bearing the image of Doc Draper and a citation outlining the winners' achievements.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Draper Laboratory is a leader in guidance, navigation, and control systems; fault-tolerant computing; reliable software development; modeling and simulation; and MEMS technology. It applies its expertise to the development of advanced engineering prototypes in a broad range of domains, including autonomous air, land, sea, and space systems; information systems control and integration; distributed sensors and networks; precision-guided munitions; advanced microelectronics; chemical/biological defense; and biomedical engineering.