From research to application in record time
By Steven Schultz
Princeton NJ -- Just five years after it appeared in Nature magazine, a research result from the lab of Princeton engineer Stephen Forrest is finding its way into commercial products.
In November, a New Jersey start-up company announced that it sold a technology that is based on Forrest's work to a subsidiary of the electronics giant Pioneer Corp. for use in a new type of video display.
The pace of the development is remarkable because research published in top-flight journals such as Nature is selected primarily for its fundamental insights into the natural world, rather than for its potential commercial applications.
"This shows that a fundamental invention can end up in people's homes in a matter of a few years," said Forrest.
Researchers in Forrest's lab, along with colleagues at the University of Southern California, published a Nature article in September 1998 showing how a trick of quantum mechanics could produce highly efficient light emission from phosphorescent materials. The practical implication was that inexpensive and high-quality video displays could be made to require very little battery power compared with those made from other materials.
Princeton licensed the finding to Universal Display Corp. of Ewing, N.J., which developed it further and signed a deal with Tohoku Pioneer Corp. The Japanese company reported that it would release a product based on the technology "in the near future."
Conducting first-rate science while also producing useful technologies is a major goal of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said Dean Maria Klawe.
"One of the things that is really amazing about what Steve Forrest does is that he really is at the forefront of science, but somehow he also is able to work closely enough with industry that they can pick up the ideas and run with them very quickly," Klawe said. "The number of people who have that combination is really small."