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Rewarding Innovation

Lemelson-Rensselaer Winner Develops New LED

Martin 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 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 perfectly suited as a backlighting unit for any kind of LCD, according to Schubert.

Schubert first discovered that traditional LEDs actually produce polarized light, but existing LEDs did not capitalize on the light’s polarization. Armed with this information, he devised an optics setup around the LED chip to enhance the polarization, creating the first polarized LED.

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Lemelson-Rensselaer Prize winner Martin Schubert, Dorothy Lemelson, and Engineering Dean Alan Cramb. (Photo by Kris Qua)

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The invention could advance the effort to combine the power and environmental soundness of LEDs with the beauty and 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.

“In our community of innovators, the Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize recognizes our most inspired and dedicated students for their ingenuity and deep understanding of the greater global implications of their innovations,” says Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Martin Schubert is both a talented engineer and inspired entrepreneur. He launched his innovation not only because he had the engineering prowess, but because he also has a remarkable understanding of the technological, environmental, and energy saving outcomes his enlightened innovation will bring.”

Schubert is the second recipient of the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize. The prize is awarded to a Rensselaer senior or graduate student who has created or improved a product or process, applied a technology in a new way, or otherwise demonstrated remarkable inventiveness.

Schubert is the son of the senior chair of the Rensselaer Future Chips Constellation, E. Fred Schubert.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.