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Liquid Crystals Institute spawns jobs, revolutionizes industry

More than 40 years ago, researchers at Kent State University had an idea that liquid crystals could revolutionize modern technology. The soft, yet fluid, crystals could be aligned by electric charges, and voilå — crystal clear displays.

The idea was scoffed at — even ridiculed. Glenn Brown, the lead researcher on the project, was thought of as "crazy." But other Kent State researchers signed on. That mad-professor technology has morphed from a brilliant idea to a homegrown LCD Kent-made wristwatch, and into technology that has shaped the last few decades.

Modern televisions, cell phones and laptop computers are just a few of the products that simply could not exist without the innovation of the KSU Liquid Crystal Institute, says director Oleg Lavrentovich. He estimates that just last year the liquid crystal industry — for flat panel TVs alone — was worth about $140 billion. There are an estimated 1,000 jobs in Ohio related to the technology, and "tens of thousands" more around the globe

"The success story is not associated with the number of people employed, but the increased quality of life," Lavrentovich says. "Just about everything that carries information uses liquid crystal displays."

In 2008, the institute hauled in about $17 million in research dollars from state and federal agencies, divided among liquid crystal researchers around Ohio.

"Scientific exploration can lead to enormous economy impact in just a couple of decades," Lavrentovich says. "The 1960s in Kent is an example of that. From the first (liquid crystal) wristwatch in Kent to a $140 billion industry is just an illustration… it's mind-blowing."

Source: Oleg Lavrentovich
Writer: HiVelocity Staff

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