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Professor Eric Fossum Wins Emmy® for Image Sensor Technology

Jan 26, 2021   |   by Julie Bonette

Eric Fossum, Dartmouth's John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies, has been announced as one of just a few recipients of the 72nd Annual Technology and Engineering Emmy® Awards. The honor, a first for Dartmouth engineering faculty, comes from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) for inventing and pioneering the intra-pixel charge transfer CMOS image sensor — the basis for all modern CMOS image sensors, including almost all cell-phone cameras, webcams, and many digital-still cameras.

“First and foremost, it makes me happy to see people using the technology to have fun and enjoy life. But honestly, it is also a little hard to wrap my head around how much impact it has had on society and business and medicine and so many facets of modern life,” said Fossum.

Eric Fossum
Professor Eric Fossum, inventor of the technology behind almost all cell-phone cameras, webcams, and many digital-still cameras.

Fossum invented the CMOS active pixel image sensor with intra-pixel charge transfer while working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Caltech. The technology was further developed by spinoff Photobit and Photobit’s partner, Eastman Kodak. Both Eastman Kodak and ON Semiconductor, which acquired yet another spinoff of the Photobit technology via Aptina, are also being honored with Emmy® awards.

“I want to recognize my team members at JPL and at Photobit, and the efforts of thousands of engineers around the world that further improved the technology, although the early JPL inventions remain the basis of the six billion CMOS image sensors made each year,” said Fossum.

After working at JPL, Fossum co-founded several startups and served as CEO. At Dartmouth, he developed the Quanta Image Sensor photon-counting technology with his students and co-founded Gigajot. He has published over 300 technical papers and holds about 175 US patents. He is an OSA and IEEE Fellow, NAE member, NIHF inductee, and Queen Elizabeth Prize Laureate.

Technology and Engineering Awards honor development and innovation in broadcast technology and recognize breakthroughs in technology that have a significant effect on television engineering, according to the organization. Technology and Engineering Emmys® are awarded to an individual, a company, or to a scientific or technical organization for developments and/or standardization involved in engineering technologies which either represent so extensive an improvement on existing methods or are so innovative in nature that they materially have affected the transmission, recording, or reception of television.

“The Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards have always recognized the talented and innovative leaders and companies that have made the incredible world of television possible,” said Robert Seidel, Chair, Technology & Engineering Committee, NATAS, in a press release announcing the winners.

Fossum will be honored at the 72nd Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy® Awards Ceremony, which is scheduled to be held virtually in October 2021.

Fossum said of the honor, “It feels fabulous, of course, whenever you get recognition, but an Emmy is something most people have heard about, so that just doubles the fun.”