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Martin Schadt (2007)
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 worldwide 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.
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:

As principal inventor and head of Roche LC research he promoted the development of LPP-Photoalignment 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.


Publications and patents summary

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Key publications



  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". Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2015-04-24.