School of Mathematics & Physical Sciences

LCD breakthrough at Hull 40 years ago

Did you know that the phone in your pocket, the screen on your desk and your 3D television exist because of a technological breakthrough 40 years ago by a research team at the University of Hull?

Professor George Gray

Above: Professor George Gray

On March 22, 1973 Professor George Gray, FRS, CBE, published a paper describing a new type of liquid crystals that could be stabilised at room temperature for the very first time, giving birth to the first generation of liquid crystal displays or LCDs.

Liquid crystals are now used in everything from televisions and mobile phone screens to domestic cleaning creams. However, their widespread use in electronic displays only came about after a team of researchers at the University of Hull, led by Professor Gray, made the breakthrough that made them commercially usable.  Last year more than 750 million LCD products, with an estimated value of £56 billion, were manufactured worldwide - all inspired by the breakthrough made in Hull.

Forty years on, the University of Hull continues to lead the way in the development of the next generation of LCD technology (Organic Light Emitting Diodes - OLEDs) which promise thinner screens, sharper pictures and greater energy efficiency.

Professor Steve Kelly, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, who worked with Professor Gray developing LCDs in the 1970s, said: “I remember how rewarding it was to work with liquid crystals in the 1970s; to see how our work led to a new era in TV manufacturing – from the bulky cathode ray tube to the streamlined liquid crystal displays – was quite spectacular.

Everywhere we go now, we can see the impact of that work with smartphones, computer screens and portable devices constantly in use all over the world.

“The University of Hull’s liquid crystal research carries on to this day. It is a constantly evolving technology and we are proud that we continue to be at the forefront, keeping UK science on the global innovation map.”

Liquid crystal_close-up

Above: Liquid crystals

The University of Hull’s LCD research has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards, including a Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1979 and Professor Gray was awarded the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology in 1995.

The 40th anniversary of the LCD breakthrough, which falls during National Science and Engineering Week, will kick start a series of events and campaigns throughout 2013 to spread the word about Hull’s role in inspiring modern technology.


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