Mailed 4/23/97


Upton, NY -- A flat-panel video screen, known as the Polyplanar Optics Display, has been named a finalist in the 1997 Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation. Invented by James Veligdan, a research engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, the device was one of 35 finalists chosen from about 4,000 entries by the Discover editorial staff.

The innovators have been invited to attend an awards gala at Epcot, at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, on May 31, where a winner in each of eight categories will be announced: automotive & transportation, aviation & aerospace, computer hardware & electronics; computer software; environment; sight, the category under which the Polyplanar Optics Display was entered; sound; and an editor's choice award for emerging technology. Also, one of the winners will be selected to win a $100,000 prize from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation to foster innovation. All finalists will be featured in the July issue of Discover magazine.

The five finalists from New York were honored by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at a special ceremony at City Hall on April 22.

The Technology

Originally developed for cockpit displays in U.S. Air Force airplanes, Brookhaven's Polyplanar Optics Display has several other potential uses. For example, it can be used to make large television screens that are only about two inches thick and have excellent picture quality for "hang-on-the-wall" home entertainment. In addition, it can be used for video advertising displays, computers, and automotive dashboard displays.

The display works by directing light from a laser or incandescent source to a modulator, which guides the light beam into the proper sector of laminated wave guides. Composed of multiple sheets of laminated glass or plastic, the wave guides direct the light to the screen for displaying the video image.

The new technology provides a safe, high-contrast, high-brightness, black viewing screen that offers exceptionally wide viewing angles. The Polyplanar Optics Display can be adapted to project 3D images, and it can be equipped with a laser or infrared pointer to make it remotely interactive. The pointer can be used in the same way as a computer mouse, allowing for easy home internet surfing.

Associated Universities, Inc., the nonprofit research management organization that operates Brookhaven Lab under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, holds several patents covering the Polyplanar Optics Display, and the Laboratory is currently seeking to commercialize the novel video screen through licensing agreements with the private sector.

The Innovator

Born to Czechoslovakian immigrants, James Veligdan learned to speak English when he attended public school. Interested in electronics since age 11, Mr. Veligdan started his own radio repair business at age 13, and, by age 16, he owned a TV repair shop that paid his way through college.
Born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Mr. Veligdan earned two bachelor's degrees from the University of Pittsburgh one in psychology, in 1973; and another in physics, in 1979. In 1974, while he was still in school, Veligdan joined the engineering staff at Westinghouse R&D Laboratory, and, in 1985, he came to Brookhaven.

An extremely productive innovator, Mr. Veligdan holds ten patents, with seven more pending. He thought of the idea for the Polyplanar Optics Display on a break from work, while flipping through an optics textbook.

In his spare time, Mr. Veligdan has built and piloted a sailplane, which is now on display at Mitchell Field, Long Island, at the site where Charles Lindbergh launched his record-breaking flight. He also rebuilds Model T automobiles and Steinway pianos. An amateur musician, he plays the electric bass in a local community band. With his wife, Mr. Veligdan designed and built a solar-heated home, using many of the features of the Brookhaven House, an energy-saving house that was showcased at Brookhaven Lab in the 1970s. He also designed a special bicycle with the seat in a reclining position, which he sometimes rides for the 15-mile, round-trip commute from his home to Brookhaven.

Mr. Veligdan said, "I'm not a TV watcher, even though my latest invention is aimed at improving television technology. I read a lot, and ideas for inventions just come to me. I'm honored to receive this nomination from Discover magazine."

NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: James Veligdan resides in Manorville, New York.