Color sensing technology wins Rochester scientists Technology Emmy Awards

April 7, 2019
Peter Dillon and Albert Brault will receive Technology Emmy Awards for development of the single-chip color camera.

Peter Dillon and Albert Brault will receive Technology Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ( for their "Pioneering Development of the Single-Chip Color Camera" on April 7 in Las Vegas, NV. Their inventions include coating a mosaic of color filters over the light sensitive pixels on an image sensor and developing demosaicing algorithms to generate color video images. This technology is widely used to produce television programs and movies. It's also used to create color photos and video clips in a broad range of products, including smart phone cameras, drones, and medical imaging devices.

Peter Dillon said, "We're delighted to receive this recognition for our research. We'd like to thank all our team members, who helped us develop and demonstrate the world's first integral color image sensors and cameras. It's amazing what a revolution this has created in how people around the world use color images to communicate."

Albert Brault said, "By combining my knowledge of chemistry with Peter's understanding of solid-state electronics, we created a new way of sensing color images. We were fortunate to have all the support and infrastructure needed to turn our ideas into working devices. Decades later, we're thrilled that Rochester remains the world's center for photonics and imaging."

In early 1974, while at Kodak Research Labs (KRL), Dillon lead a team developing an early prototype color video camcorder. Instead of the conventional design using a large color prism and three CCD (charge coupled device) sensors, he conceived the idea of fabricating a color filter mosaic over the individual pixels of a single CCD. Brault, his KRL colleague, then perfected a process for coating organic color dyes through photoresist windows during wafer fabrication. To determine the optimum color pattern, Peter consulted KRL mathematician Bryce Bayer, who invented the checkerboard arrangement now known as the "Bayer Pattern". These visionary ideas made capturing color digital images inexpensive and ubiquitous. Today, nearly everyone carries the technology they developed in their purse or pocket, since billions of integral color sensors are used each year in smart phones.

Dillon presented a paper, co-authored by Brault, describing the world's first single-chip color sensor in December 1976 at the IEEE International Electron Device meeting in Washington D.C. The auditorium was packed with scientists from the leading semiconductor and video camera manufacturers. Afterwards, many visited KRL to learn about this important imaging breakthrough.

The research building where Dillon and Brault worked was expanded in the early 1980s to manufacture the world's first color megapixel imagers, which were used in many pioneering digital cameras. The facility is used today by ON Semiconductor to fabricate world-class color CCD image sensors with up to 50 Megapixels. The building is also home to the AIM Photonics Test, Assembly, and Packaging facility for integrated silicon photonics devices.

Todd Gustavson, Curator of the Technology Collection at the George Eastman Museum, said "The color sensor technology developed by Peter Dillon and Albert Brault has revolutionized all forms of color photography. These color sensors are now ubiquitous in products such as smart phone cameras, digital cameras and camcorders, digital cinema cameras, medical cameras, automobile cameras, and drones. We're fortunate to have some of their original color sensors and their first color camera head as highlights of our technology collection."

Robert Seidel, Chair, Technology & Engineering Achievement of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, said, "The single-chip color sensors and video cameras pioneered by Peter Dillon and Albert Brault decades ago have materially affected today's television viewing experience. We are especially excited to honor them at our Gala on April 7."


About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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