The Nobel Prize for Physics 2009 has been awarded to Charles Kao for his “groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication” and Willard Boyle & George Smith for their “invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”.
Half the award goes to Charles Kao for his work on the theory behind optical fibres that could be used to transmit information over long distances: 100km compared with the 20m possible beforehand. Every hour thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cable are laid worldwide, with enough fibre laid to encircle the Earth 25000 times, more than a billion kilometres.
Reference: Kao, K.C., Hockham, G.A. (1966) Dielectric-Fibre Surface Waveguides for optical frequencies, Proceedings of the IEEE, 133(3), pp. 191-198. Link
The second half of the award is split between Willard Boyle and George Smith for their work in creating CCD sensors: the “electric film” that digital cameras use, scanners, medical devices and surveillance satellite all use CCDs.
References: Boyle, W.S., Smith G.E. (1970) Charge Coupled Semiconductor Devices, Bell System Technical Journal, 49(4), pp. 587-593. Amelio, G.F., Tompsett, M.F., Smith, G.E. (1970) Experimental Verification of the Charge Coupled Device Concept, Bell System Technical Journal, 49(4), pp. 593-600.
More information: Nobel Prize in Physics 2009 Speed Read