First Name
Last Name
Office Room
Hennings 410
Lab Room
Hennings 111
Tel (Office)
(604) 822-3075
Tel (Lab)
(604) 822-6843
Research Groups

Students Wanted
not accepting

Personal Information


Lorne A. Whitehead received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of British Columbia and is also a Professional Engineer. His career has involved sustained innovation in technology, business, and administration. From 1983 to 1993 he served as CEO of TIR Systems, a UBC spin-off company that he founded and which eventually grew to 200 employees prior to being purchased by Philips in 2007.

He has been a faculty member at UBC since 1994.  As a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, he carries out studies of the optical, electrical, and mechanical properties of micro-structured surfaces, a field in which he holds more than 140 US patents and numerous international counterpart patents. His technology is used in many computer screens and televisions.  He has also helped to start six additional new companies – Sonigistix, Brightside (purchased by Dolby Laboratories), Boreal Genomics, SunCentral, CLEARink Displays, and Elix Wireless Systems.

In addition to his research at UBC, Dr. Whitehead has held a number of administrative positions including Associate Dean, Dean pro tem, Vice-President Academic and Leader of Education Innovation.  He is currently UBC’s Special Advisor on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Research, and in this capacity he also serves as the Program Director for the Bay View Alliance (a group of seven major research universities collaborating on applying improvement science to the challenges of leadership in advancing pedagogical effectiveness) and Director of the HIBAR Research Alliance (a network of organizations partnering to catalyze the emergence of an improved academic culture that yields more and better Highly Integrative Basic and Responsive, or HIBAR, research while improving academic excellence). Dr. Whitehead has also served on the Boards of several non-profit organizations and is currently a member of the Board of Administration of the Commission Internationale de L’Eclairage, based in Vienna.

Research Interests

His research focuses on the application of novel geometrical approaches to applied physics challenges, with a focus on the interactions of electromagnetic fields with microstructures. In addition to the usual scientific publications, largely in journals such as Applied Optics and the Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, this work has generated a large number of patents and, perhaps most importantly, license agreements with industry that have resulted in a significant amount of commercial activity. Five important areas of contribution are:

Prism Light Guide (US Pat. #4,260,220 and additional publications and patents)

He initiated this field of research with the invention of the Prism Light Guide, the first optical design to enable light to be piped efficiently and cost effectively in large hollow structures, with the primary application being illuminating engineering applications. This technology led to his founding of the spinoff company TIR Systems Ltd., which grew steadily since its incorporation, and reached about 200 employees in Vancouver when it was acquired in 2007 by Philips Electronics.  One spin-off technology resulting from this work was a microstructured film capable of doubling the brightness of a computer display.  3M Company purchased this intellectual property from UBC and used it to develop their “brightness enhancement film” product line, incorporated into most laptop and flat panel displays. His research regarding new light guiding technology is ongoing.

CLEAR Display (US Patent #5,959,777 and additional publications and patents)

This invention is a fundamental new technique for electrically modulating the reflectance of a surface. The CLEAR Display uses a unique microstructure involving total internal reflection to produce a high brightness and excellent contrast by frustrating TIR through a variety of electro-optic techniques. The technology was licensed by UBC to a new company, CLEARink Displays, for commercial development.

HDR Display (US Patent #6,891,672 and additional publications and patents)

This invention is a new technique for producing light-emitting electronic images, which addresses a fundamental limitation of all previous image modalities. This new device uses a hybridization of a low resolution, extremely bright image formed using the latest generations of light emitting diodes, with a conventional colour liquid crystal display and novel control software, to achieve a full dynamic image display range. The technology was licensed to UBC start-up company Brightside Technologies, and the company was acquired in 2007 by Dolby Laboratories. Many televisions today incorporate this technology. 

Core Sunlighting US Patent #8,611,011 and additional publications and patents)

This invention involves a system that demonstrates, for the first time, both the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of a core sunlighting system that guides direct sunlight deep into the interior of a building, thereby reducing the amount of electrical energy required for lighting. UBC licensed the technology to SunCentral Inc., a Vancouver-based company incorporated to develop commercial systems based on the technology.

SCODA (US Patent #8,480,871 and additional publications and patents)

This invention is a novel, general principle for achieving 2D or 3D concentration via electrophoresis in alternating electric fields, based on temporal alteration of the coefficient of drag in synchronization with the applied electric field. The acronym SCODA (synchronous coefficient of drag alteration) is used to describe this principle. Through a multidisciplinary research collaboration with Dr. Andre Marziali at UBC, this technique has been shown to enable extremely high concentration of DNA molecules in solution. Dr. Marziali and colleagues launched a company, Boreal Genomics, to commercialize this technology.

Research Area
Applied Physics

Selected Publications
  • “Evaluating and minimizing color distortion in high gamut displays arising from the natural diversity of color-normal observers”, Whitehead, L., Smet, K., and Webster, M., Color Research and Application, 2021.
  • “Re-invigorating HIBAR research for the 21st century: Enhancing fundamental research excellence in service to society”, Whitehead, L., Slovic, S., and Nelson, J., Journal of Technology and Innovation 21, 2020.
  • “The scholarship of mission: A new concept for promoting scholarly work that advances institutional goals”, Elrod, S., Whitehead, L., and Huber, M., Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 52(1), 2020.
  • “Observations of rapid and dominant radiant heating and cooling of various carbon nanostructures in vacuum and low pressure gas”, Mohammadbeigi, F., Whitehead, L., Divigalpitiya, R., and Nojeh, A., Advanced Engineering Materials 22(3), 2020.
  • “Colorful adaptation for real surfaces under wide color gamut illumination”, Takahashi, Y., Ilic, I., Webster, M., Whitehead, L., and Mizokami, Y., Journal of Vision 19(8), 2019.
  • “Methods for assessing quantity and quality of illumination”, David, A., Smet, K., and Whitehead, L., Annual Review of Vision Science 5, 2019.
  • “Graphene based bidirectional radiative thermal transfer method for heat engines”, Nojeh, A., Sawatzky, G., and Whitehead, L., Applied Optics 58(8), 2019.
  • “A vector field color rendition model for characterizing color shifts and metameric mismatch”, David, A., Esposito, T., Houser, K., Royer, M., Smet, K., and Whitehead, L., Leukos, 2019.
  • “Electrodynamics of electronic paper based on total internal reflection”, Robben, B., Beunis, F., Neyts, K., Fleming, R., Sadlik, B., Johansson, T., Whitehead, L., and Strubbe, F., Physical Review Applied 10, 2018.
  • “LED-based white lights – a research forefront in physics and ergonomics”, David, A. and Whitehead, L., Comptes Rendus Physique 19(3), 2018.
  • “Contrast adaptation and illuminant spectra”, Ilic, I., Whitehead, L., and Webster, M., Journal of Vision 17(10), 2017.
  • “Color preference in lighting – A misleading name for an unscientific idea”, Whitehead, L., Papamichael, K., and Siminovitch, M., Lighting Research and Technology 49, 2017.
  • “A simple principled approach for modeling and understanding uniform color metrics”, Smet, K., Webster, M. and Whitehead, L., Journal of the Optical Society of America A 33(3), 2016.
  • “Why color space uniformity and sample set spectral uniformity are essential for color rendering metrics”, Smet, K., David, A. and Whitehead, L., Leukos 12(1-2), Oct. 2015.
  • “Solid state lighting for illumination and displays: Opportunities and challenges for color excellence”, Whitehead, L., Information Display 2(15) (invited paper), May 2015.
  • “Toward a replacement of the CIE color rendering index for white light sources”, Smet, K., Whitehead, L., Schanda, J. and Luo, R., Leukos, Apr. 2015.
  • “High color rendering means better vision without more power”, Papamichael, K., Siminovitch, M., Veitch, J, and Whitehead, L., Leukos 21(1-2), Mar. 2015.
  • “Tutorial: Color rendering and its applications in lighting”, Houser, K., Mossman, M., Smet, K. and Whitehead, L., Leukos 21(1-2), Jan. 2015.
  • “CRI2012: A proposal for updating the CIE colour rendering index”, Smet, K., Schanda, J., Whitehead, L. and Luo, R., Lighting Research and Technology 45, Feb. 2013.
  • “Methods for controlling extraction of light”, Emmel, J. and Whitehead, L, Applied Optics 52(34), Nov. 2013.
  • “Electrically-controlled diffraction employing electrophoresis, supercapacitance, and total internal reflection,” Radel, J.C., and Whitehead, L.A., Applied Optics 52(31), Oct 2013.
  • “The evolution of contralateral control of the body by the brain: Is it a protective mechanism?” Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, Whitehead, L. and Banihani, S., Lancet Neurology 19, Aug 2013.
  • “Chromaticity-Matched but Spectrally Different Light Source Effects on Simple and Complex Color Judgments”, Veitch, J.A., Whitehead, L.A., Mossman, M., and Pilditch, T.D., Color Research and Application 39(3), Jun. 2013.
  • “Why Actually Do Stars Twinkle and Do The Stars Twinkle on Mars” American Journal of Physics, Vol.80, No. 11, 980-984 : Huizinga, J., Mossman, M., and Whitehead, L. November 2012
  • “Characterization of Large Scale Interface Deformation from Electrostatic Modification of the Contact Angle of Pinned Contact Lines” American Institute of Physics, Vol.112: Ibarra-Bracamontes, Mossman and Whitehead. 2012
  • “Transparent Superhydrophobic Surfaces for Applications of Controlled Reflectance” Optical Society of America, Vol.51 No.11 1645-1653: Gou, S., Mossman, M., and Whitehead, L. 4 April 2012.
  • “Interpretation Concerns Regarding White Light” Wiley Periodicals, Inc. COLOR research and application. Vol.00, No.0: Whitehead, L. 2012
  • “The Conservation of the Hollow Tree in Vancouvers Stanley Park” Apt Bulletin: Journal of Preservation Technology, Vol.42, No.4, 3-9: Kalman, H., and Whitehead, L. 2011.
  • “A Monte Carlo Method for Assessing Color Rendering Quality With Possible Application to Color Rendering Standards” Proceedings of the 2010 CIE 2nd Expert Symposium on Appearance, Gent, Belgium: Whitehead, L. and Mossman, M. September 2010.
  • “Comparing Lighting Quality Evaluation of Real Scenes with Those from High Dynamic Range and Conventional Images” ACM Transactions on Applied Perception, Vol.7, No.2 Article 13: G. R. Newsham et al. February 2010.
  • “Electrochemical Threshold Conditions During Electro-Optical Switching of Ionic Electrophoretic Optical Devices” Applied Optics, Vol.48, No.6. 1062-1072: Whitehead, L., et al. 12 February 2009.
  • “Demonstration of A Cost-Effective Approach To Core Daylighting” Solar Energy 82: Whitehead, L., et al. April,2008.
  • “A Simple Function for the Description of Near-Exponential Decays: The Stretched or Compressed Hyperbola” American Journal of Physics Teachers, Vol.77, 173-179: Whitehead, L., et al. 7 October 2008.
  • “Observations of TIR at a natural super-hydrophobic surface” Physics in Canada, Vol.64, No.1, : Whitehead L. et al. January-March Winter, 2008.
  • “Cost-effective controlled illumination using daylighting and electric lighting in a dual-function prism light guide” Lighting Research and Technology, Vol.40, : Rosemann A. et al. March 2008.
  • “Photometric Image Processing for High Dynamic Range Displays” Journal of Visual Communication & Image Representation 18, 439-451: Trentacoste, M. et al. 2007
  • “Variable diffraction gratings using nanoporous electrodes and electrophoresis of dye ions” Proc. of SPIE Vol. 6645: Hrudey P. et al. September 2007.
  • “Efficient dual-function light guide to enable cost-effective core daylighting” Leukos Vol.3 No.4, 259-276: Rosemann, A. et al. April 2007.
  • “A new model of protein-adsorption kinetics derived from simultaneous measurement of mass loading and changes in surface energy” American Chemical Society: Clark, A., Kotlicki, A., Haynes, C. and Whitehead, L. February 2007.
  • “Liquid transport based on electrostatic deformation of fluid interfaces” Journal of Applied Physics 99: Aggarwal, J et al. 2006.
  • “Jack O’Lanterns and Integrating spheres: Halloween physics” American Association of Physics Teachers Vol.74 No.6: Mossman, M., Whitehead, L. June 2006.
  • “Novel fiber-based integrating sphere for luminous flux measurements” Review of Scientific Instruments Vol.77: Szylowski, M., Mossman, M., Barclay, D., Whitehead, L. June 2006.
  • “Novel electrophoresis mechanism based on synchronous alternating drag perturbation” Electrophoresis 26, 82-90: Whitehead, L.A. et al. 2005.
  • “Controlled frustration of TIR by electrophoresis of pigment particles” Applied Optics Vol.44 No.9 1601-1609: Mossman, M., Whitehead, L. March 2005.
  • “High Dynamic Range Display Systems” – Siggraph Etech 2004: Whitehead, L. and Seetzen, H. et al. 2004.
  • “A novel reflective image display using total internal reflection” Elsevier 25 215-221: Mossman, M., Kwong V.H., & Whitehead, L. 2 November 2004.
  • “Control of reflectance of liquid droplets by means of electrowetting” Applied Optics Vol.43 No.4 808-813: Kwong, V. H., et. al. 1 February 2004.
  • “A High Dynamic Range Display Using Low and High Resolution Modulators” SID 03 Digest: Seetzen, H. et al. 2003.
  • “A High Reflectance, Wide Viewing Angle Reflective Display Using Total Internal Reflection in Micro-Hemispheres” IDRC 03 : Mossman, M. A. et al. 2003.
  • “Lighting Quality Evaluations using Images on a High Dynamic Range Display” Institute for Research in Construction, Proceedings of the ARCC/EAAE Conference on Arthitectual Research, Montreal 1-9: Newsham, G., Seetzen, H., Veitch, J., Chaudhuri, A., Whitehead, L May 22-25 2002.
  • “Novel resonant-frequency sensor to detect the kinetics of protein absorption” American Institute of Physics Vol.73 No.12 4339-4346: Clark, A. J. et al. December 2002.
  • “Modulation of retroreflection by controlled frustration of total internal reflection” Applied Optics Vol.41 No.25 5357-5361: Coope, R. J. N. et al. September 2002.
  • “Electrical modulation of diffractive structures” Applied Optics Vol.41 No.16 3343-3347: Kwong, V.H. et al. 1 June 2002.
  • “Visual Applications of Total Internal Reflection In Prismatic Microstructures” Physics in Canada 329-335: Whitehead, L. A. et al. November – December 2001.
  • “New Reflective Display Based on Total Internal Reflection in Prismatic Microstructures” 311-314: Mossman, M. A. et al. 2000.
  • “A Proposed Lighting Quality Metric Based on Spatial Frequency Analysis”: Samuelson, C.E. Ashdown, I., Kan, P., Kotlicki, A., Whitehead, L.A. 1999.
  • “Improved Extractor Design for Modular Light Guides” Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society 10-15: Whitehead, L. A. et al. Summer 1999.
  • “Near Field Photometry of Prism Light Guide Luminaires using a CCD Camera” Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society 3-9: Whitehead, L. A. et al. Summer 1999.
  • “Evaluation of Diffraction Loss in Prism Light Guides by Finite-Difference Time-Domain Field Modeling” Applied Optics Vol. 37 No. 25 5836-5842: Whitehead, L. A. et al. September 1998.
  • “High-efficiency prism light guides with confocal parabolic cross sections” Applied Optics Vol.37 No.22 5227-5233: Whitehead, L. A. et al. August 1998.
  • “Variable Spacing Diffraction Grating Employing Elastomeric Surface Waves” Whitehead, L. A., Clark, A. August 1998.
  • “New Simplified Design Procedures for Prism Light Guide Luminaires” Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society 21-27: Whitehead, L. A., Hoffman, K. Summer 1998.
  • “Microstructured Elastomeric Electromechanical Film Transducer” Journal Acoustical Society of America Vol.103 No.1 389-395 : Whitehead, L. A., Bolleman, B. January 1998.
  • “Navigational Range Lights: The Effect of Stimulus Configuration on Alignment Accuracy” Ergonomics Vol.38 No.7 1360-1367: Coren S. et al. July 1995.
  • “A Wide Sky coverage Ferrofluid Mercury Telescope” The Astrophysical Journal Vol.424 No.2 L139-L141: Shuter,W. L. H., Whitehead, L. A. April 1994.
  • “Light-Distribution Methods for Backlighting LCDs” SID 92 Digest 419-422 : Whitehead, L. deVaal, J. 1992.
  • “High Precision Calorimetric Search for Evidence of Cold Fusion using In Situ Catalytic Recombination of Evolved Gases” Journal of Fusion Energy Vol.9 No.2 161-164 : Hayden, M. E. et al. June 1990.
  • “High Precision Calorimetric Apparatus for Studying Electrolysis Reactions” Review of Scientific Instruments Vol.61 No.5 1504-1508: Narger, U. et al. May 1990.
  • “A New Device for Distributing Concentrated Sunlight in Building Interiors” Energy and Buildings, Vol.6 119-125: Whitehead, L. A. et al. 1984.
  • “Simplified Ray Tracing in Cylindrical Systems” Applied Optics Vol.21 No. 19 3536-3538: Whitehead, L. A. October 1982.
  • “New Efficient Light Guide for Interior Illumination” Applied Optics Vol.21 No.15 2755-2757: Whitehead, L. A. et al. August 1982.
  • “Split-Ring Resonator For Use in Magnetic Resonance From 200-2000Mhz” Review of Scientific Instruments Vol.52 No.2 213-216: Hardy, W. N., Whitehead, L. A. February 1981.
  • “Magnetic Resonance Studies of Gaseous Atomic Hydrogen at Low Temperatures” Physical Review Letters Vol.42 No.16 1042-1045: Hardy, W. N. et al. 16 April 1979.