Engineering alum Eric Fossum wins Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Eric Fossum
Eric Fossum

Eric R. Fossum, professor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth University and a Yale alumnus, is one of four individuals awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

The prize is a global £1 million award that celebrates engineers whose innovations have been of global benefit to humanity. Introduced in 2011, it is the largest engineering prize in the world.

Fossum was honored for the invention of image sensor technology that is at the heart of every digital camera today. Invented by him at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to miniaturize cameras in space, the modern image sensor is used in personal visual communications, entertainment, automotive safety, medicine, science, security, defense, and social media. More than three billion cameras are made each year using CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) image sensors, some in standalone cameras and even more embedded in products such as smartphones and automobiles.

The CMOS “camera on a chip” that is the core of Fossum’s invention converts light into digital signals, and unlike its Charge-Coupled Device predecessor, consumes far less power, occupies much less space and can be integrated with mainstream electronics production, thereby perfect for use in space as well as in mobile devices on Earth.

Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Fossum is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the IEEE and the OSA, and was named by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as an AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador. He has also been CEO of two successful high tech companies.

Fossum, a Connecticut native, received his B.S. in physics and engineering from Trinity College, and his Ph.D. in engineering and applied science from Yale in 1984.

Also receiving this year’s award are individuals whose earlier inventions sparked the dawn of digital imaging and contributed to Fossum’s innovative image sensor. They are Nobukazu Teranishi, research professor at University of Hyogo and Shizuoka University, Japan, and Michael F. Tompsett and Nobel laureate George E. Smith, both retired scientists from Bell Labs.