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March 18, 2011

Ching Tang wins Wolf Prize

Ching TangChing Tang, the Doris Johns Cherry Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Hajim School, has been awarded the Wolf Prize in the field of chemistry. In the 33 years that the Wolf Foundation has awarded the prize, one out of every three scientists to win it in physics, chemistry, and medicine has gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Tang shares the 2011 prize with Stuart Alan Rice of the University of Chicago, and Krzystof Matyjaszewski of Carnegie Mellon University.

Tang is the inventor of the organic light-emitting diode (OLED), which gave birth to a multibillion-dollar industry. The diodes have been used to create displays in cell phones, computers, and televisions that are much more energy efficient, thinner, and offer a clearer picture than LCD displays. “The concept is, in principle, very simple— to create a layer of thin film and pass a current through it to emit light,” says Tang. LCD displays still dominate the commercial market, but OLEDs are quickly becoming more prevalent in devices like smart phones as the technology has improved. When he published his seminal paper on the technology in 1987 in the journal Applied Physics Letters, Tang was employed by Eastman Kodak Co. To this day, that paper has been cited by more scientists than any other paper in the history of the well-regarded journal.

“The Wolf Prize is internationally renowned, and the announcement that Ching Tang will share the 2011 Wolf Prize in chemistry is a great honor for Professor Tang, for our Department of Chemical Engineering and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and for the entire University of Rochester family,” says President Joel Seligman. “The Wolf Foundation has called his work ‘spectacular,’ and anyone who has seen the new OLED displays derived from his work will certainly agree. But perhaps the best news of all is that Professor Tang continues to teach, and he continues to perform cutting-edge research, with his latest work promising significant advances in the field of photovoltaics and solar energy. We could not be more proud of Ching Tang and his continued achievements.”

In addition to the discovery of OLEDs, Tang has been credited with a number of key innovations leading to the commercialization of new flat-panel display technology, including the development of robust luminescent materials, novel color pixilation methods, fabrication processes for the manufacture of OLED displays, and the adaptation of technology for high-definition OLED displays.

Tang also is widely recognized for his early work in photovoltaics, which could lead to major improvements in the ability to produce low-cost solar cells to capture energy from the sun.

“This is great news, and yet another appropriate honor for Ching Tang’s very impressive past work,” says Robert Clark, dean of the Hajim School. “But I have to say, knowing what Ching is working on currently, and how he is expanding his previous work now into solar energy applications, I am even more excited every time I think about the discoveries that will be coming out of his lab in the years ahead.”

Ching Tang with coworkers
Ching Tang talks with graduate students Hao Lin (left), Kevin Klubek, and Prashant Kumar Singh (right).

Tang holds a primary appointment in the Department of Chemical Engineering as well as appointments in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy, and Chemistry. Prior to joining the University faculty in 2006, Tang was a Distinguished Research Fellow at Kodak. He’s a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Society for Information Display. He holds more than 70 U.S. patents and has published 70 papers.

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