Dr. Rudolf Eidenschink, SID Fellow and Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize Recipient, Dies at 74
“With the death of Dr. Rudolf Eidenschink, the liquid-crystal community lost one of its most innovative and inspiring pioneers.” --Dr. Werner Becker, Merck KGaA
Dr. Rudolf Eidenschink, SID Fellow, recipient of the Society for Information Display’s Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize, passed away on December 27, 2012, and was buried on January 14, 2013. Eidenschink was the Founder and President of Nematel GmbH&Co.KG in Mainz, Germany, and a former employee of Merck KGaA in Darmstadt,
The prestigious Braun prize was awarded to Eidenschink in 2011” for his invention and development of low birefringence, fast responding, and highly stable phenyl-cyclohexane (PCH), biphenyl-cyclohexane (BCH) and bi-cyclohexane (CCH) liquid crystal series, enabling the advancement of thin-film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCDs)."
Eidenschink joined Merck in 1975 to work on liquid crystals, an exciting research topic with much technical potential that was still in its juvenile stage. In opposition to the general theory of liquid-crystal science at the time that only combinations of at least two phenyl rings would entail liquid crystalline properties – the cyano-biphenyls and terphenyls as invented by Prof. George Gray (another KFB prize laureate) at the University of Hull in 1973 being typical examples for this hypothesis – Dr. Eidenschink introduced the cyclohexane ring in trans-configuration into liquid-crystal chemistry. Much to the surprise of other liquid-crystal experts, this resulted in very useful compounds with superior properties, paving the way to modern LCD applications.
This remarkable achievement was acknowledged by other liquid-crystal scientists like Dr. Haruyoshi Takatsu, company Fellow of DIC Corporation, who stated: "Dr. Rudolf Eidenschink is one of the most outstanding pioneers in the field of liquid-crystal material research and development. The phenyl-cyclohexane liquid crystals (PCHs) he invented in 1977 exhibited a new concept of liquid-crystal linking, and extended the applications of LCDs due to their high stability and excellent properties."
Born in 1938, Eidenschink was working at the age of 16 as an apprentice in a large chemical factory when he became impressed by the efforts of engineers there to enable chemical reactions on a large scale. He continued in the field of chemistry and earned a doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Muenster in Germany. After a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Sussex in England he returned to Germany to join Merck. At that time liquid crystals were often referred to as "ueberfluessige Kristalle" (superfluous crystals) because of their lack of relevance to profitable business models. Eidenschink, in a statement for the Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize, said: "Having seen the first pocket calculator with an LCD in the late 70s, it was clear to me that this was the beginning of a never-ending story. There was no display technology to compete with LCDs in terms of low energy consumption and space required. Nonetheless, LCD TV screens at that time were still dismissed as science fiction."
In his career at Merck and later on in his own enterprise, Eidenschink wrote or contributed to more than 60 journal articles and filed over 120 patents. His scientific work was awarded by further recognitions and prizes like the Fredericks medal of the Russian Liquid Crystals Society. In 1987, he founded his own research and development company, Nematel, Inc., in Mainz, focusing on new liquid crystalline (nematogenic and smectogenic) structures, dichroic dyes, new functional fluids with special tribologic effects, and contract synthesis. --Dr. Werner Becker, Merck KGaA