Martin Schadt

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Martin Schadt (2007)

Martin Schadt (born 1938) is a Swiss physicist and inventor.


In 1970, the physicists Martin Schadt and Wolfgang Helfrich invented the twisted nematic field effect (TN-effect) in the Central Research Laboratories of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, in Basel, Switzerland. The resulting patent CH532261 was licensed world-wide to electronics and watch industries and thus initiated a paradigm change towards flat panel field effect liquid crystal (LC) displays.

In the early 1970s, Martin Schadt started to investigate correlations between liquid crystal molecular structures, material properties, electro-optical effects and display performance to obtain criteria for novel, effect-specific liquid crystal materials for TN- and subsequent field-effect applications. His interdisciplinary approach involving physics and chemistry became the basis for modern industrial LC-materials research and led to the discovery and production of numerous new functional molecules and new electro-optical effects. In 1970, shortly after the invention of the TN-effect, he developed the first commercial room temperature nematic liquid crystal mixture with positive dielectric anisotropy,[1] used in the displays of the first Japanese digital TN-LCD watches. The pharmaceutical company Roche established itself as a major supplier of liquid crystal materials for the emerging LCD-industry.


Early prototype of an alpha-numeric LCD based on the twisted nematic field-effect as realized in the laboratories of the Central Research Laboratories of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. by Martin Schadt and Wolfgang Helfrich. Photo by courtesy of M. Schadt.

Apart from his pioneering work on the TN-effect (i.e.e twisted nematic field effect), novel liquid crystal materials, organic semiconductors and biophysics, he invented or co-invented the following effects and technologies:

  • first organic light-emitting diode (OLED) (1969 as post-doc at Canada's NRC; US patent 3,621,321),
  • Kerr effect in LCs (1972),
  • field-induced guest-host color switching (1979),
  • dual frequency addressing and materials (1982),
  • optical mode interference (OMI)-effect (1987,)
  • deformed helix ferroelectric (DHF)- and short pitch bi-stable ferroelectric (SBF)-effect (1989, 1990),
  • linearly photo-polymerisation (LPP)-technology (1991).

As principal inventor and head of Roche LC research he promoted the development of LPP-Photo-alignment into manufacturing (1992–2002). As a key technology it enables contact free alignment and photo-patterning of monomeric and polymeric liquid crystals by optical means instead of mechanically. This has opened up novel display configurations as well as a wide range of new optical thin-film elements on single substrates, such as LC-interference color filters, optical retarders, cholesteric optical filters, wide-view films to enhance the field of view of LCDs, novel optical security elements for document and brand protection, stereo-polarizers as well as nano-and micro-corrugated optical polymer thin-film elements enabling polymeric antireflective and directional light scattering coatings.

The molecular design approach of Martin Schadt and his team has led to the discovery, patenting and production of the following commercially important liquid crystal classes: alkyl cyano Schiff'bases and esters (1971),[2] phenyl-pyrimidines (1977), alkenyl liquid crystals which have become key for all state-of-the-art high-information content LCDs (1985–1995), numerous halogenated liquid crystals (1989–1995) as well as the first strongly non-linear optical (NLO)-ferroelectric liquid crystals (1992).

Until 1994 Martin Schadt was the head of the Liquid Crystal Research division of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. As a spin-off from Hoffmann-La Roche in 1994 he founded the interdisciplinary research and development company ROLIC Ltd. From 1994 until his retirement from the operating business in October 2002 Martin Schadt was CEO of ROLIC Ltd. and delegate of the board of directors. He retired from ROLIC in 2005 and is now active as a scientific advisor to various research groups and governmental agencies.


  • Roche Research and Development Prize, 1986, "For his decisive contributions to the knowledge of liquid crystal materials, their physical properties and electro-optics which have formed a basis for the breakthrough of a new display technology. His work has led to a new class of marketable products and to the scientific reputation of Roche in a new field."
  • Special Recognition Award of American Society Information Display (SID), 1987, "For significant and continuing contributions to the theory and reduction to practice of high information content liquid crystal displays."
  • Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize, 1992; highest recognition Award of the Society for Information Display,[3] "For his outstanding and sustained scientific and technical contributions to the development of twisted nematic and other liquid crystal display technologies."
  • Fellow Award Society for Information Display, 1992, "For his pioneering contributions to research and development of twisted nematic and other liquid crystal devices and materials."
  • Aachener und Münchener Preis für Technik und angewandte Naturwissenschaften, 1994, "Für die bahnbrechende Erfindung der Flüssigkristallanzeige als Schlüsselbauelement der Informationstechnologie" (for the pioneering invention of the Liquid Crystal Display as a key-component for information technology).
  • Robert-Wichard-Pohl Preis der Deutschen Physikalischen Gesellschaft, 1996, to Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt, "In Würdigung ihrer Erfindung und Entwicklung von Flüssigkristallanzeigen" (in appreciation of their invention and their development of Liquid Crystal Displays).
  • 2008 IEEE Jun-ichi Nishizawa Medal together with Wolfgang Helfrich and James Fergason for pioneering development of twisted nematic liquid crystal technology.
  • Eduard-Rhein Technologie-Preis 2009 for outstanding and internationally acknowledged achievements in the area of novel electro-optical operational principles for flat panel display applications, as well as the respective materials and device concepts; most notably, for co-inventing the twisted nematic liquid crystal effect - the crucial core technology for the success of LCDs - as well as other liquid crystal modes and linearly polymerized photo polymers.[4]
  • George W. Gray Medal of the British Liquid Crystal Society, 2010, for proposing the first OLED in 1969, for inventing the Kerr effect in liquid crystals in 1972, dual frequency addressing in 1982, deformed helix ferroelectrics in 1989, pioneering photo alignment and for the molecular design of new classes of commercially relevant liquid crystals.
  • Blaise Pascal Medal in Material Science of the European Academy of Sciences, 2010. In recognition of his pioneering contributions to the development of Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) and Liquid Crystal Materials (LCs).
  • Fellow Award of the European Academy of Sciences (2011)
  • Frederiks Medal, the highest Award of the Russian Liquid Crystal Society for outstanding contributions in the field of liquid crystal physics (2011)
  • Charles Stark Draper Prize awarded by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to G. Heilmeier, W. Helfrich, M. Schadt and P. Brody, "for the engineering development of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) utilized in billions of consumer devices".
  • European Inventor Award, (2013)

Publications and patents summary[edit]

  • 167 scientific publications in leading international journals,
  • 110 lectures,
  • Co-author of 4 books,
  • More than 116 basic patents—among them 100 U.S. patents—each filed in 10–12 countries.

Key publications[edit]

The numbers refer to the complete list of publications of Martin Schadt.

7) "A Simple Organic Electroluminescence Diode"; D. F. Williams and M. Schadt. IEEE 58, 476 (1970).

The first solid state, blue light emitting organic diode (OLED) is presented. The OLED is based on electron-hole recombination into single crystals of anthracene via charge carrier-injection through solid electrodes; c.f. also the corresponding Canadian patent.

9) "Voltage-Dependent Optical Activity of a Twisted Nematic Liquid Crystal (TN-LCD)"; M. Schadt and W. Helfrich. Phys. Rev. Lett. 27, 561 (1971).

First Publication of the twisted nematic (TN)-effect after its invention and patent filing at Roche in December 1970. Based on the TN-effect and the development of TN-specific liquid crystal materials, the field-effect liquid crystal display (LCD)-industry evolved.

16) "Photoresponse of Bimolecular Lipid Membranes Pigmented with Retinal and Vitamin A Acid"; M. Schadt. Biophys. Acta 323, 351 (1973).

Postulation of the first electronic equivalent circuit for the visual process. The electronic model describes the photo-response of artificial lipid bilayer membranes doped with retinal and/or vitamin A.

17) "Permeability of Lipid Bilayer Membranes to Biogenic Amines and Cations: Changes Induced by Ionophores and Correlations with Biological Activities": M. Schadt and G. Häusler, J. Membrane Biol. 18, 277 (1974).

Biogenic amines are found to be selectively transported across lipid bilayer membranes upon doping LB-films with specific ionophores. We show for the first time that biogenic amine transport is competitively inhibited by cations. Moreover, correlations are found between our LB-film findings and the cardiac sympathetic effects of iono-phores in dogs and the ability of specific ionophores to facilitate permeation of biogenic amines through lipid bilayers.

23) "Phenyl Pyrimidines: Design, Synthesis and Physical Properties"; A. Boller, M. Cereghetti, M. Schadt and H. Scherrer. Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 42, 215 (1977).

The demand for liquid crystals rendering TN-LCDs operable at very low voltages (1.5 volts) led to the design, synthesis and patenting of the first strongly polar heterocyclic liquid crystals. It is shown that strong dielectric synergies result from com-bining pyrimidine rings in the rigid cores of LC-molecules with cyano end groups without hampering mesogenic proper-ties. Phenyl-pyri-midines were the first, low operating voltage nematics enabling the development of TN-LCDs with increased information content for pocket calculators and dot-matrix digital watch TN-LCDs in the late 1970s.

25) "Kerr Effect and Orientational Relaxation of Pretransitional Domains and Individual Molecules in Positive Dielectric Liquid Crystals"; M. Schadt. J. Chem. Phys. 67, 210 (1977).

In the isotropic phase of polar liquid crystals exceptionally large electrically-induced optical birefringence coefficients (Kerr effect) are shown to occur.. The static and dynamic Kerr coefficients are correlated with molec-ular functional groups and are shown to be due to pre-transitional short-range order effects. Two relaxation processes with relaxation times between 10−7 – 10−9 sec are identified to govern the dynamics. The dispersion mechanisms as well as potential applications of liquid crystals in fast electro-optical shutters are outlined.

29) "Field-induced Color-Switching Liquid Crystal Display"; M. Schadt. J. Chem. Phys. 71, 2336 (1979).

A new electro-optical guest-host effect based on novel dichroic host molecules is presented which for the first time not only modulates light intensity but also the color of a display. A model describing the physics of the new color-switching effect is presented.

38) "Class-Specific Physical Properties of Liquid Crystals and Correlations with Molecular Structure and Static Electro-Optical Performance of Twisted Nematic LCDs"; M. Schadt and P. Gerber. Zeitschr. Naturforsch. 37a, 165 (1982).

For the first time complete sets of all relevant material parameters which govern the electro-optical perfor-mance of TN-LCDs are determined, including elastic constants. Specific relevant molecular functional groups of LC-molecules are identified and correlated with material properties and display performance. Heterocyclic rings are shown to induce small bend/splay elastic constant ratios. Analytical expressions are derived describing the electro-optical performance of TN-LCDs. The find-ings led to inventing and developing new LC-classes enabling increased information contents of TN-LCDs. As a result, first dot-matrix TN-displays for pocket calculators and office equipment evolved in the early 1980s.

40) "Low Frequency Dielectric Relaxations in Nematics and Dual-Frequency Addressing of Field-Effects"; M. Schadt. Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 89, 77 (1982).

Novel liquid crystal molecules and LC-mixtures were designed enabling pronounced dielectric dispersion already at very low (audio) frequencies, thus rendering dual-frequency addressing of LCDs feasible. Dispersive dielectric molecular functions are identified which markedly reduce the response times of displays and increase the information contents of TN-LCDs.

47) "Polar Alkenyls: Physical Properties and Correlations with Molecular Structure of New Nematic Liquid Crystals"; M. Schadt, M. Petrzilka, P. Gerber and A. Villiger. Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 122, 241 (1985).

For the first time it is shown that double bonds at specific sites in the hydrocarbon side-chains of liquid crystals strongly broaden the range of LC-mate-rial parameters, especially the elastic- and visco-elastic constants. First correlations between alkenyl molecules, material parameters and display performance are presented. Numerous new classes of alkenyl liquid crystals – designed and patented in our laboratories between 1984 and 1995 – are based on these findings. Alkenyl liquid crystals have become key components for achieving high information content super-twisted nematic (STN)-LCDs and fast responding, thin-film transistor (TFT)-addressed monitor- and television -LCDs.

57) "Electro-Optical Performance of a New, Black-White and Highly Multi-plexible Liquid Crystal Display (OMI-LCD)"; M. Schadt and F. Leenhouts. Appl. Phys. Lett. 50, 236 (1987).

A new, inherently black-white (Optical Mode Interference)-effect is presented. The new OMI-supertwisted effect is shown to be less sensitive to temperature changes and to manufacturing tolerances than other, inherently colored su-pertwist configurations.

66) "Material Properties, Structural Relations with Molecular Ensembles and Electro-Optical Performance of New Bicyclohexane Liquid Crystals in Field-Effect LCDs"; M. Schadt, R. Buchecker and K. Müller. Liq. Cryst. 5, 293 (1989).

Several new families of fast responding alkenyl nematic liquid crystals are presented. It is shown that by shifting alkenyl double bonds from even in to odd side-chain positions, strong odd-even effects result in virtually all liquid crystal material parameters. Interactive molecular modelling indicates that the elastic constant ratios of nematic LCs are not determined by the shape of individual molecules as postulated before, but rather by the shape of molecular ensembles. Our findings led to the invention, patenting and manufacturing of new generations of (alkenyl) liquid crystals for high in-formation content displays (c.f. also ref. 96 and book ref. 3). Correlations between LC-material parameters and electro-optical performance of LCDs are derived and related with novel molecular functional groups.

68) "Deformed Helix Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal Displays; a New Electro-Optical Mode in Sc* Liquid Crystals (DHF-LCDs)"; L. A. Beresnev, V. G. Chigrinov, I. Dergachev, E. P. Pozhidaev, J. Fünfschilling and M. Schadt. Liq. Cryst. 5, 1171 (1989).

In collaboration with researchers of NIOPIK, Moscow, a new, fast responding ferroelectric field-effect, denominated Deformed Helix Ferroelectric (DHF)-effect, is presented. Unlike other ferroelectric effects, the DHF-effect enables gray scale and rms-driving. Both properties are crucial for spatial light modulators and for very fast responding, high information con-tent displays and electronic color shutters (c.f. also ref. 111, 123).

79) "New Liquid Crystal Polarized Color Projection Principle; M. Schadt and J. Fünfschilling." Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 29, 1974 (1990).

A novel, large aperture cholesteric LCD-color projection concept is presented which converts unpolarized light into polarized light within selective wavelength ranges. All critical optical elements , i.e. color filters, polarizers and electro-optical modulators, con-sist entirely of liquid crystalline thin-films and LCDs. The new optical concept, which includes new liquid crystalline materials, con-siderably improves the brightness of displays and LCD-projectors and avoids dissipative optical elements. The first temperature-independent, short-pitch, monomeric cholesteric liquid crystals with negative dielectric anisotropy for disclocation-free, broad-band circular polarizers and cholesteric optical filters are presented (c.f. also ref. 123 and book ref. 3).

94) "Surface-Induced Parallel Alignment of Liquid Crystals by Linearly Poly-merized Photopolymers (LPP-technology)"; M. Schadt, K. Schmitt, V. Kozinkov and V. Chigrinov. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 31, 2155 (1992).

For the first time simultaneous anisotropic alignment and cross-linking of initially iso-tropic photo-polymers by linearly polarized uv-light is demonstrated. The new LPP–photo-alignment technology enables non-mechanical uniaxial alignment of liquid crystal molecules. This renders photo-generation of microscopic LC-aligning patterns with arbitrary azimuthal director orientation(s) feasible. A molecular model of the new LPP-photo-alignment process is presented (c.f. also ref. 120).

95) "Strongly Nonlinear Optical (NLO)-Ferroelectric Liquid Crystals for Frequency Doubling"; K. Schmitt, R. P. Herr, M. Schadt, J. Fünfschilling, R. Buchecker, X. H. Chen and C. Benecke. Liq. Cryst. 14, 1735 (1993).

Novel synergies are shown to result from combining the non-centro symmetry and the large spontaneous polarization Ps of short pitch ferroelectric smectic C* liquid crystals with another molecular function, namely with optical non-linearity. From coupling NLO properties with Ps and optical bi-stability result molecular configurations with exceptional ?2 -coefficients which are 500 times larger than those of the best NLO-Sc*-materials known at the time. The NLO-activity of our new materials and molecular configuration is competitive with the best inorganic NLO-materials (LiNO3). Moreover, from combining for the first time the optical bi-stability of an electro-optical effect with NLO-activity, follow the first thermally stable inorganic NLO-configurations (c.f. also ref. 112).

119) "Photo-Generation of Linearly Polymerized Liquid Crystal Aligning Layers with Integrated Optically Patterned Retarders and Color Filters". M. Schadt, H. Seiberle, A. Schuster and S. M. Kelly, Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. Pact 1, 34, 3240 (1995).

For the first time uniaxial planar alignment of liquid crystal polymer (LCP)-films on single substrates is shown. Photo-alignment of single- and stacked LCP-layers is shown to enable LCP-thin-film configurations with freely adjustable optical axes and novel optical functions. The molecular photo-mechanisms generating anisotropic optical film-properties are outlined. The new LPP/LCP technology enables a plethora of novel photo-patternable thin-films, such as interference color filters, wide-view films to broaden the field of view of LCDs, photo-structured polarisers as well as a novel optical security elements (c.f. also ref. 120, 157, 159).

127) "Optical Patterning of Multi-Domain Liquid Crystals with Wide Viewing Angles"; M. Schadt, H. Seiberle and A. Schuster. Nature 381, 212 (1996).

Photo-induced uniaxial liquid crystal alignment in a single exposure step is for the first time shown to generate defined LC bias-tilt angles. Prerequisite is non-centro-symmetric LPP-photo-alignment achieved by photo-polymerizable molecules with novel photo-reactive symmetry. This extension of our LPP-photo-alignment technology is crucial for enabling dislocation-free photo-aligned LCDs (c.f. also ref. 94). Moreover, LPP-photo-alignment enables angular independent high information-content monitor- and television-LCDs via control of molecular alignment within each pixture element. This is demonstrated by the first four-domain LPP-photo-aligned and photo-patterned TN-LCD.

164) Novel Optical Thin-Films with Isotropic and Anisotropic Nano-Corrugated Surface Topologies; M. Ibn-Elhaj and M. Schadt. Nature 410, 796–799 (2001).

Nano- and Micro-topologies are shown to result from optically-induced monomer phase-separation on polymer surfaces. Our novel monomer-corrugation (MC)-technology enables high-performance antireflection coatings for optical components of virtually any size, shape and material. It also enables a plethora of other functional polymer thin-films with isotropic as well as anisotropic topologies. Examples are films whose birefringence exceeds the birefringence of the polymer material itself, diffractive thin-films, diffusors, directional-reflectors which preserve light-polarisation as well as films which align LCDs and simultaneously exhibit optical and electrical functions.


1) Schadt, M. (1994). "Liquid Crystal Displays". In H. Stegemeyer,. Liquid Crystals. New York: Steinkopff/Springer. pp. 195–226. 

2) v. Zedtwitz, M.; Brauchli, M.; Schadt, M. (1996). "Ueberwindung nationaler Grenzen dargestellt am Beispiel der Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)-Technologie". In O. Gassmann und, M. v. Zedtwitz. Internationales Innovations Management. Muenchen: Vahlen Verlag. pp. 143–154. 

3) Schadt, M. (1997). "Liquid Crystal Materials and Liquid Crystal Displays". In E. N. Kaufmann, Ch. J. Summers. Annual Review of Materials Sciences. Vol 27. New York. pp. 305–375. 

4) Schadt, M. (1998). "Recent Advances in LPP-Photo-Alignment of Liquid Crystals Applied to the Phase-Retarder Image of Alfred Saupe". In P.E. Cladis and P. Palffy-Muhoray. Dynamics and Defects in Liquid Crystals. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. pp. 263–271. 


  1. ^ George W. Gray, Stephen M. Kelly: "Liquid crystals for twisted nematic display devices", J. Mater. Chem., 1999, 9, p. 2037–2050
  2. ^ A. Boller, H. Scherrer, M. Schadt and P. Wild: Low electrooptic threshold in new liquid crystals, Proc. IEEE, 60 (1972), 8, p. 1002-1003
  3. ^ "Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize". Society for Information Display. 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Technologiepreis - Technology Award 2009". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 


  • Gerhard H. Buntz (Patent Attorney, European Patent Attorney, Physicist, Basel), "Twisted Nematic Liquid Crystal Displays (TN-LCDs), an invention from Basel with global effects", Information No. 118, October 2005, issued by Internationale Treuhand AG, Basel, Geneva, Zurich. Published in German
  • M. Schadt: "Milestones in the History of Field-Effect Liquid Crystal Displays and Materials", Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 48(2009), pp. 1–9
  • David A. Dunmur and Horst Stegemeyer: "Crystals that Flow: Classic papers from the history of liquid crystals", Compiled with translation and commentary by Timothy J. Sluckin (Taylor and Francis 2004), ISBN 0-415-25789-1, History of Liquid Crystals Homepage
  • Rolf Bucher: "Wie Schweizer Firmen aus dem Flüssigkristall-Rennen fielen", Das Schicksal von Roche und BBC-Entwicklungen in zehn Abschnitten", Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Nr.141 56 / B12, 20.06.2005
  • Werner Becker, Hans-Juergen Lemp: "100 years of Commercial Liquid Crystal Materials", Information Display 2, 2004
  • Merck KGaA, Corporate Communications: "100 years of Liquid Crystals at Merck: The history of the future." March 2004, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Werner Becker (editor): "100 years Liquid Crystals", Liquid Crystal Newsletter No. 19, 2004, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Michael Heckmeier, et al.: "Liquid Crystals for Active Matrix Displays", Merck KGaA, Darmstad, Germany
  • Merck KGaA, Corporate Communications: "Liquid Crystals: Merck Makes Bits & Bytes Visible", Merck KGaA, Darmstad, Germany