Dr. Tompsett, Prof. Teranishi and Prof. Fossum at the ceremony, image: Queen Elizabeth Prize

This year's 1 million Pound Queen Elizabeth Prize has recognized the work of some of the key scientists in the creation of digital imaging sensors. The award is shared by British-born Dr Mike Tompsett, Professor Nobukazu Teranishi from Japan, and Professor Eric Fossum and George Smith from the US.

George Smith and Willard Boyle, who are now both deceased, first had the idea for CCD sensors at Bell Labs in 1969, but it was their colleague Dr. Tompsett, who saw the potential of the technology in imaging. The first digital color photo, of Tompsett's wife Margaret, appeared on the cover of Electronics Magazine. 

Professor Teranishi is the inventor of the pinned photodiode (PPD), which is a more efficient photodiode than previous variants. He undertook the work at NEC Corporation in Japan in 1980.

Eric Fossum worked in the 1990s at the NASA and Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab. His goal was to miniaturize digital cameras to reduce the payload of spacecraft. His work resulted in the development of CMOS sensors which can be found in most modern consumer digital cameras.

Digital imaging, together with other forms of digital technology, has transformed the world, and every day billions of digital images are captured by billions of devices, ranging from professional TV cameras to tiny imaging units in autonomous vehicles. At the time of their inventions the scientists might not have foreseen the scale of the impact of the technology but they are certainly more than deserving of this year's award.