Martin Schubert - a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute doctoral student in electrical, computer, and systems engineering - has developed the first polarized light emitting diode (LED), an innovation that could vastly improve LCD screens, conserve energy, and usher in the next generation of ultra-efficient LEDs. Schubert's innovation has earned him the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize.
Schubert's polarized LED advances current LED technology in its ability to better control the direction and polarization of the light being emitted. With better control over the light, less energy is wasted producing scattered light, allowing more light to reach its desired location. This makes the polarized LED suitable as a backlighting unit for any kind of LCD. Its focused light will produce images on the display that are more colorful, vibrant, and lifelike, with no motion artifacts.
The invention could advance the effort to combine the power and environmental soundness of LEDs with the clarity of LCDs. Schubert expects that his polarized LED could quickly become commonplace in televisions and monitors around the world, replacing widely used fluorescent lights that are less efficient and laden with mercury. His innovation also could be used for street lighting, high-contrast imaging, sensing, and free-space optics.