Martin Schubert, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student, has developed a new type of light emitting diode (LED) that could allow LEDs to be widely used as light sources for liquid crystal displays (LCDs) on everything from televisions and computers to cell phones and cameras. Schubert, a doctoral student in electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has developed the first polarized 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 technology in its ability to better control the direction and polarization of the light being emitted. With better control, less energy is wasted producing scattered light, allowing more light to reach its desired location. This makes the polarized LED perfectly suited as a backlighting unit for any kind of LCD, according to Schubert. Its focused light will produce images on the display that are more colorful, vibrant, and lifelike, with no motion artifacts. 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, he notes. Schubert is expected to complete his doctorate in electrical engineering this fall. After graduation he plans to pursue a career in semiconductor devices and photonics. For more information, visit http://web.mit.edu/invent/.