George E. Smith


George Smith, a physicist, won half the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Willard S. Boyle “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor.” The prize was shared with Charles K. Kao for work in fiber optical communications. George Smith worked with Bill Boyle at Bell Labs. He studied the electronic properties of semimetals and from there branched into topics such as thermoelectric cooling and low temperature electronic devices. He and Bill Boyle invented the Charge Coupled Device (CCD) that is used today in digital cameras and satellites. A CCD is able to move charge around in little bins that can be changed to a digital value. For a digital camera, when light shines on a photoactive region it causes the bins to accumulate charge in an amount related to the intensity of the light. A control circuit then transfers the charge to the neighboring bin until all bins have finally been dumped into a charge amplifier. The amplifier converts the information into a sequence of voltages that can be digitized and stored.