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Reflections

of Dr. Martin Schadt


Upon the occasion of his 2012 Draper Prize Lecture
April 24, Boston Museum of Science & Cambridge Science Festival

Dr. Martin Schadt


Physicist and Inventor 2012 Draper Prize Recipient

I grew up in a small country village in the northern part of Switzerland where, in the 1940s and 50s, no one ever thought of going to university, including myself, even though I made many daring physical and chemical experiments. Admittedly, some experiments were not appreciated by our neighbors, especially when they interfered with radio reception or were of noisy pyrotechnical nature! Since I did not have a camera when I was young, I have no pictures of my early experiments. Today I regret this because some of my early electronic tube radios Dr. Martin Schadt in his Roche Lab in 1988. and transmitters looked quite interesting, faintly resembling haystacks. I made my experiments essentially with bits and pieces from scrap radios (the unit price of a scrap radio was $5, which was a small fortune at the time). Precautions to safeguard the operator from electrical shocks were not considered. Later, having earned some money during my apprenticeship, I was able to build more sophisticated transmitters and even buy a small Hallicrafters short-wave radio. Since university was not an obvious alternative, I began a four-year apprenticeship as an electrician in Basel, the oldest university town in Switzerland (founded 1460). I very quickly realized that I wanted to learn more about science, so I caught up on studies at evening school and passed
One of Schadts (illegal) short-wave radio stations (1954).

my entrance exams for university. Having a keen interest in experiments, I was especially fascinated by physics and its technological implications. While pursuing my masters degree in experimental physics, I became interested in organic semiconductors, quite an exotic topic at the time. I liked the interdisciplinary research approach and the freedom to design and prepare my own experiments and equipment. Few groups world-wide were doing research on organic semiconductors, and the only regular lecture on solid-state physics at the University was offered by my thesis advisor, Professor E. Baldinger. He was an outstanding teacher in solid-state electronics, both encouraging and supporting unconventional research projects.

Now, as so often happens in physics, new surprising findings were made! Contrary to initial thought, I could show after numerous experiments that it was not necessary for the electric field to fully unwind the liquid crystal helix.

After completing my thesis in 1967, I was granted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the National Research Council (CNRC), Ottawa, Canada. In the group of D. F. Williams, I continued my research on electronic charge-transport and related optical properties in molecular crystals. Because of the inefficient charge carrier injection into organic crystals a prerequisite for electron-hole recombination and generation of light emission I developed more efficient hole-injecting electrodes. These new

Schadts first TN-LCD prototype made in 1971 to convince the Roche Board of Directors of the operability of the Twisted Nematic (TN)-Effect.

solid-state electrodes permitted electrically insulating organic materials to be converted into considerably efficient light-emitting organic semiconductors. This paved the way for new optical and electronic experiments. One problem was that the electrodes were highly sensitive to residual water, which limited their lifetime to seconds in an ordinary lab atmosphere. After having remedied this problem, I successfully developed the first solid-state organic light emitting display (OLED), which led to my first U.S. patent. Due to the 1mm-thick anthracene single crystal that I used, more than 100V were required to generate sufficient light output from the display. This voltage was much too high for semiconductor drivers. My two-year fellowship ended at this stage. Discouraged by the large gap between the performance of my simple OLED prototype and industrial targets, I felt pessimistic about the future of organic semiconductors and decided to switch fields. In fact, it wasnt until 25 years later, after chemical vapor deposition (CVD) had been developed, that C.W. Tang and S.A. VanSlyke at Kodak demonstrated that efficient low voltage operation of OLEDs was possible by using very thin (<100nm) amorphous organic films. This was the beginning of modern OLEDs, and another 25 years were to pass before this led to the first commercial OLED TV-screen in 2007. After my post doc studies, I joined the Swiss watch company, Omega, developing atomic time standards. It was then I became aware of a liquid crystal research project that the pharmaceutical company, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel, had started. The project was triggered by the dynamic light scattering display of the group of G. Heilmeier at RCA. Because I was interested in interdisciplinary research covering physics, electro-optics, and organic materials, I joined the Central Research Labs of Roche in 1970. A few months afterwards, I met

Schadts first TN-LCD prototype made in 1971 to convince the Roche Board of Directors of the operability of the Twisted Nematic (TN)-Effect.

On the roof of one of Seikos Research Labs in Suwa, Japan, in 1973 after Seiko signed the first TN-LCD licensing agreement with Roche. Mr. Hamamoto (right), legal advisor to Mr. Hattori, president of Seiko.

Pdf reprint of a 1988 Roche brochure, The dream: a flat-panel TV screen. (By 1988, R+D had progressed to a stage where LCD-TV became feasible.)

Wolfgang Helfrich, who had left RCA to join the Roche liquid crystal group. Inspired by a polarization observation made by the French crystallographer Mauguin in 1911, Helfrich had the idea that the long axes of initially twisted nematic liquid crystal molecules between crossed polarizers could be switched by an electric field perpendicularly, causing an optical change. Contrary to the lack of interest shown by RCA management towards this idea, I was immediately attracted and began to design and perform a series of electro-optical experiments for investigating its feasibility. In the late fall of 1970, I was able, for the first time, to reproducibly switch and observe polarization changes in a twisted nematic LC-configuration under the microscope. Now, as so often happens in physics, new surprising findings were made! Contrary to initial thought, I could show after numerous experiments that it was not necessary for the electric field to fully unwind the liquid crystal helix, i.e. to switch the long molecular LC-axes vertical to the cell substrates. To my own astonishment, I found that a few volts were sufficient to block light transmission. This was a more than 20times lower voltage than we had initially expected to be required for complete vertical LCFirst page of the Swiss TN-LCD patent of Helfrich and Schadt, filed Dec. 4, 1970.

Dr. Martin Schadt in his Roche Lab in 1979.

First page of the TNLCD patent granted in Japan (which looks very picturesque).

alignment. The experiments showed that it is enough for the electric field to deform only the central part of the TN-helix to achieve an electro-optical effect. We patented the new effect on December 4, 1970, which became known as twisted nematic (TN)-effect, and published the surprising results. A theory describing the electro-optics of twisted nematic LC-configurations did not exist at the time. It was only developed three years later by Dwight Berreman at Bell Labs, NJ. In the same year, Peter Brody realized the first thin-film transistor (TFT)-addressed TN-LCD. With the exception of two years of research in biophysics due to interruption of liquid crystal research by Roche in 1971 my R&D activities focused on the development of electro-optical field-effects for liquid crystal displays and new, industrially viable liquid crystal materials. The TN-invention was licensed worldwide by Roche to the emerging liquid crystal (LCD)-industry. TN-LCDs initiated a paradigm change from dynamic scattering displays towards todays flat panel field-effect liquid crystal display industry. I supported this development with my team by advancing the experimental techniques for determining all relevant LC-material properties, searching for correlations among molecular

Drs. Schadt and Helfrich received the Munich and Aachen Prize for Technology and Natural Sciences for invention of the TN-LCD, Berlin, 1994.

optical retarders for 3D-LCDs, polarization sensitive optical security elements, and optically anisotropic integrated optics devices, among others. I headed the Liquid Crystal Research Division of Roche until 1994. Based on the photo-alignment technology, my Division was spun out as the company ROLIC Ltd, an interdisciplinary Research and Development Company which I headed as its first CEO and delegate of the Board of Directors until my retirement from the operating business in 2002. Since then, I have been active as an independent inventor and scientific advisor to research organisations and industry. I am a Fellow of the Society of Information Display and of the European Academy of Sciences, holding more than 106 U.S. patents. I have published 182 papers in leading scientific journals. Among other awards, I am the recipient of the IEEE JunIchi-Nishizawa Medal and the 2012 Draper Prize. In my Draper Prize Lecture at the Museum of Science, Boston, in April 2012, I presented the historical development of todays field-effect LCD and LC-material technologies as well as the world-wide interdisciplinary contributions of physicists, engineers and chemists to the successful story of flat panel displays.

A Polarization Microscope picture of one of Schadts first TN-LCD experiments made at Roche in the fall of 1970 which virtually failed. The picture looks like a work of art rather than an element of a TN-LCD. Some of the black parts in the picture, however, showed signs of an electro-optical effect; i.e. optical switching upon voltage application.

structures, display performance, and material properties. As a result, the pharmaceutical company, Roche, established itself as a major liquid crystal supplier for the emerging LCDindustry. Moreover, I invented the linear photo-polymerization technology with my collaborators in 1991, enabling alignment and optical patterning of monomer and polymer liquid crystals on surfaces by light rather than mechanically. The technique opened up novel LCD operating modes with broad fields of view and short response times. New optical polymer thin-film applications became feasible. Examples include high resolution patterned

Ventures into Biophysics Research


Electro-optical Response of Lipid Membranes Because Roche as a pharmaceutical company was interested in cell mechanisms/ interactions and because I had decided to stay with the company after Roche stopped nematic LCD R&D in 1971, I started looking for interesting problems in the field of artificial molecular bilayer membranes (black lipid films). Since fatty acids exhibit liquid crystalline properties, this enabled combining my interests in electronic transport phenomena and electro-optical effects with biophysics. Lyotropic LCs (fatty acids) are essential components of our cell membranes. Without their liquid crystalline long range order, blood cell membranes, for instance, could not exist. When I started reading biophysics literature to get ideas for experiments, I came across a publication by an MIT professor who had investigated the electro-optical response of lipid bilayer membranes doped with vitamin A acid. He explained his results with a semiconductor band model. As a solid-state physicist, this puzzled me because an important prerequisite for band models is a periodic lattice made up of a very large number of atoms/molecules in transport direction. Because bilayer membranes consist of just 2 molecules in transport direction, I did not understand his results and conclusions. Therefore, I decided to repeat his experiments. After several months of hard work and struggling with tricky experimental conditions, I discovered that he was indeed wrong. He had not measured cell membrane effects but the optical response of his electrolyte/electrode combination. I developed an electronic analogy model of the photo-response of lipid bilayer membranes doped with Vitamin A, which properly explained the experiments, and was lucky to publish my first work in biophysics research in a renowned journal:
M. Schadt. Photoresponse of bimolecular lipid membranes pigmented with retinal and vitamin A acid, Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, Vol.323, 351-366, 1973.

The Effects of Neurotransmitters on Electrical Brain Response Based on my earlier PhD work on charge carrier transport in molecular crystals and from a comment of a chemist friend who mentioned that Roche manufactured ionophores (molecules which transport ions across cell membranes) in the U.S. to prevent chickens in large farms from catching a deadly disease, I thought

this topic would be interesting. Wondering whether I could dope my membranes with this ionophore to find out which type of ions were responsible for the chicken effect, I discovered interesting correlations. And I was just about to write up the results for publication when I met a neurologist in the medical research department of Roche who used the same ionophore to extend the life of his dogs in his studies of the effects of neurotransmitters on electrical brain response. I wondered whether the ion selectivity found in my membranes would correlate with neurotransmitter transport and started to extend my experiments to neurotransmitters. The results were very interesting indeed. I found that not only ion transport was selective, but that neurotransmitter transport across ionophore-doped membranes was selective as well. The next step was to investigate whether the specific neurotransmitters which my colleague found most efficient in his dogs would also be most efficient in my experiments, which was the case. This was an exciting result because it showed that experiments with simple bimolecular membranes can correlate with the mechanisms in complex living cell membranes. We published the results in:
M. Schadt and G. Husler, Permeability of lipid bilayer membranes to biogenic amines and cations: Changes induced by ionophores and correlations with biological acitivites, Journal of Membrane Biology, Vol. 18, 277-294, 1974.

And, What If? At this stage of my short but very interesting biophysics R&D time, and because Seiko Epson had approached Roche in the meantime to license the twisted nematic (TN)-LCD patent rights, Roche suggested that I restart interdisciplinary LCD- and LC-material research which had been stopped in 1971. Apart from its world-wide TN-licensing activities, Roche became a major LC-material supplier for the emerging LCD industry. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had continued working in biophysics; well, unfortunately one lives only once.

The Draper Prize was instituted by the National Academy of Engineering in 1988 at the request of Draper Laboratory to honor Dr. Charles Stark Draper and increase public awareness of the contributions of engineering to society. The prize is awarded annually for innovative engineering achievements and their reduction to practice in ways that ultimately have improved the wellbeing and freedom of humanity.

For more information, visit www.draperprize.org.

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