Lorne Whitehead, Professor



B. Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., UBC (’77, ’79, ’89), P.Eng.

CEO, TIR Systems Ltd. (’83-’93)



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 one hundred 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 Project 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.  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. The five most 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.  Currently, the labs research in this area currently focuses on improvements in the cost effectiveness of bringing daylight into the core regions of a building.

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 appears to have much promise and commercial development is underway at UBC spin-off company CLEARink Displays Corporation.

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 spin-off company Brightside Technologies, and the company was acquired in 2007 by Dolby Laboratories.  As of 2016, televisions incorporating this technology have been brought to market by several major companies.  

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. This technology is being commercialized by UBC spin-off SunCentral Inc. 

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. Instruments based on SCODA are currently under development by UBC spin-off Boreal Genomics Inc.



Selected Publications

1.           Hardy, W.N., Berlinsky, A.J. and Whitehead, L.A., “Magnetic resonance studies of gaseous   atomic hydrogen at low temperatures,” Physical Review Letters, 42, 1042-1045, (1979).

2.           Whitehead, L.A., “Simplified Ray Tracing in Cylindrical Systems,” Applied Optics, 21, 3536-3538, (1982).

3.           Whitehead, L.A., Nodwell, R.A. and Curzon, F.L., “New efficient light guide for interior illumination,” Applied Optics, 21, 2755-2757, (1982).

4.           Whitehead, L.A., Brown, D.N. and Nodwell, R.A., “A New Device for Distributing Concentrated Sunlight in Building Interiors,” Energy and Buildings, 6, 119-125, (1984).

5.           Hayden, M.E., Narger, U., Booth,J.L., Whitehead, L.A., Hardy, W.L., Carolan, J.F., Wishnow, E.H., “High Precision Calorimetric Search for Evidence of Cold Fusion using In Situ Catalytic Recombination of Evolved Gases,” Journal of Fusion Energy, 9 , 161-164, (1990).

6.           Shuter, W.L.H. and Whitehead, L.A., Shuter, W., Whitehead, L.A., A Wide Sky Coverage Ferrofluid Mercury Telescope, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 424, L139-L141, (1994).

7.           Coren, S., Whitehead, L.A., Baca, M. and Patten, R., Navigational Range Limits: The Effect of Stimulus Configuration on Alignment Accuracy” Ergonomics, 38, 1360-1367, (1995).

8.           Whitehead, L.A., Bolleman, B., “Microstructured Elastomeric Electromechanical Film Transducer,” J Acoust Soc Am 103: (1) 389-395 Jan 1998.

9.           Whitehead, L.A., Donaldson, M., “Investigation of Light Distribution with an Annular Lens Guide,” J. Illuminating Engineering Society 27(2) 3-12, Spring 1998.

10.       Whitehead, L.A., Dosanjh, P., Kan, P., “High-efficiency prism light guides with confocal parabolic cross sections,” Applied Optics November 97 98 App; Optics 37: (22) 5227-5233 Aug 1, 1998.

11.       Whitehead, L.A., Clark, A., “Variable Spacing Diffraction Grating Employing Elastomeric Surface Waves,” Applied Optics, December, Applied Optics 37: (22) 5063-5069 Aug 1, 1998.

12.       Whitehead, L.A., Kan, P., Lui, K., “Improved Extractor Design for Modular Light Guides,” J. Illuminating Engineering Society, 1999, Volume 28, p.10.

13.       Whitehead, L.A., Su, W., Grandmaison, D., “Evaluation of Diffraction Loss in Prism Light Guides by Finite-Difference Time-Domain Field Modeling,” Appl Optics 37: (25) 5836-5842, Sep 1, 1998.

14.       Whitehead, L., Mossman, M., Kotlicki, A., “Visual Applications of Total Internal Reflection in Prismatic Microstructures,” Physics in Canada, December 2001.

15.       Kwong V.H., Mossman, M.A., Whitehead, L.A., “Electrical modulation of diffractive structures,” Appl. Optics 41 (16): 3343-3347, Jun 1, 2002.

16.       Coope, R.J.N., Whitehead, L.A., Kotlicki, A, “Modulation of retroreflection by controlled frustration of total internal reflection,” Appl. Optics 41 (25): 5357-5361, September 1, 2002.

17.       Clark, A.J., Whitehead, L.A., Haynes, C.A., et al., “Novel resonant-frequency sensor to detect the kinetics of protein adsorption,” Rev. Sci. Instrum. 73 (12): 4339-4346, Dec. 2002.

18.       Kwong, V., Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., "Control of reflectance of liquid droplets by means of electrowetting", Appl.Opt. 43(4), Feb 2004.

19.       Seetzen, H., Heidrich, W., Stuerzlinger, W., Ward, G., Whitehead, L., Trentacoste, M., Gosh, A., Vorozcovs, A., “High dynamic range display systems”, ACM Transactions on Graphics, Aug 2004.

20.       Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “A novel reflective image display using total internal reflection”, J. Displays 25(5), Nov 2004.

21.       Marziali, A., Pel, J., Bizzotto D., Whitehead, L., “Novel electrophoresis mechanism based on synchronous alternating drag perturbation”, Electrophoresis 26(1), Jan 2005.

22.       Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “Controlled frustration of TIR by electrophoresis of pigment particles”, Appl. Opt. 44(9), Mar 2005. 

23.       Webster, A., Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “Control of reflection at an optical interface in the absence of TIR”, Appl. Opt. 45(6), Feb 2006.

24.       Aggarwal, J., Kotlicki, A., Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “Liquid transport based on electrostatic deformation of fluidic interfaces”, J. Appl. Phys. 99, May 2006.

25.       Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “Jack O’Lanterns and Integrating spheres: Halloween physics”, Am. J. Phys. 74(6), Jun 2006.

26.       Szylowski, M., Mossman, M., Barclay, D., Whitehead, L., “Novel fiber-based integrating sphere for luminous flux measurements”, Rev. Sci. Inst. 77, Jun 2006.

27.       Whitehead, L., Kushnir, A. and Kan, K., “Hybrid imaging using linear retroreflectors”, Appl. Opt. 45(27), Sep 2006.

28.       Clark, A., Kotlicki, A., Haynes, C. and Whitehead, L., “A new model of protein-adsorption kinetics derived from simultaneous measurement of mass loading and changes in surface energy”, Langmuir 23, Apr 2007.

29.       Rosemann, A., Cox, G., Upward, A., Friedel, P., Mossman, M., Whitehead, L., “Efficient dual-function light guide to enable cost-effective core daylighting”, Leukos Vol 3(4), Apr 2007.

30.       Trentacoste, M., Seetzen, H., Heidrich, W., Whitehead, L., Ward, G., “Photometric Image Processing for High Dynamic Range Displays”, Journal of Visual Communication and Image Representation 18(5), Oct 2007.

31.       Rosemann, A., Cox, G., Friedel, P., Mossman, M. and Whitehead, L., “Cost-effective controlled illumination using daylighting and electric lighting in a dual-function prism light guide”, Lighting Research and Technology 40, Mar 2008.

32.       Whitehead, L., Mossman, M. and Kushnir, A., “Observations of Total Internal Reflection at a natural super-hydrophobic surface”, Physics in Canada 64(1), Mar 2008.

33.       Rosemann, A., Mossman, M. and Whitehead, L., “Development of a cost-effective solar illumination system to bring natural light into the building core”, Solar Energy 82, Apr 2008.

34.       Whitehead, L., Whitehead, R., Valeur, B. and Berberan-Santos, M., “A simple widely applicable function for the description of near-exponential decays: the stretched or compressed hyperbola”, American Journal of Physics 77(2), 173-179, Feb 2009.

35.       Wong, R., Hrudey, P. and Whitehead, L., “Electrochemical threshold conditions during electro-optical switching of ionic electrophoretic optical devices”, Applied Optics 48(6), 1062-1072, 2009.

36.       Newsham, G., Cetegen, D., Veitch, J. and Whitehead, L., “Comparing lighting quality evaluation of real scenes with those from high dynamic range and conventional images”, ACM Transactions on Applied Perception 7(2), Feb 2010.

37.       Whitehead, L. and Mossman, M., “A Monte Carlo method for assessing color rendering quality with possible application to color rendering standards, Color Research and Application 37(1), Feb 2012.

38.       Gou, S., Mossman, M. and Whitehead, L., “Transparent superhydrophobic surfaces for applications of controlled reflectance”, Applied Optics, 51(11), Mar 2012.

39.       Whitehead. L., Huizinga, J and Mossman, M., “Why, actually, do stars twinkle, and do the stars twinkle on Mars?”, American Journal of Physics 80(11), Nov 2012.

40.       Ibarra-Bracamontes, L., Mossman, M. and Whitehead, L., “Characterization of large-scale interface deformation from electrostatic modification of the contact angle of pinned contact lines”, J. Appl. Phys. 112, Sep. 2012.

41.       Smet, K., Schanda, J., Whitehead, L. and Luo, R., “CRI2012: A proposal for updating the CIE colour rendering index”, Lighting Research and Technology 45, Feb. 2013.

42.       Whitehead, L., “Interpretation concerns regarding white light”, Color Research and Application 38(20), Apr. 2013.

43.       Veitch, J.A., Whitehead, L.A., Mossman, M., and Pilditch, T.D., “Chromaticity-Matched but Spectrally Different Light Source Effects on Simple and Complex Color Judgments”, Color Research and Application 39(3), Jun. 2013.

44.       Whitehead, L. and Banihani, S., “The evolution of contralateral control of the body by the brain: Is it a protective mechanism?”,  Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition Lancet Neurology 19, Aug 2013.

45.       Radel, J.C., and Whitehead, L.A., “Electrically-controlled diffraction employing electrophoresis, supercapacitance, and total internal reflection”, Applied Optics 52(31), Oct 2013.

46.       Emmel, J. and Whitehead, L.A., “Methods for controlling extraction of light”, Applied Optics 52(34), Nov. 2013.

47.       Houser, K., Mossman, M., Smet, K., and Whitehead, L., “Tutorial: Color rendering and its applications in lighting”, Leukos, Jan 2015.

48.       Papamichael, K., Siminovitch, M., Veitch, J. and Whitehead, L. “High color rendering means better vision without more power”, Leukos, Mar 2015.

49.       K. Smet, L. Whitehead, J. Schanda, and M. R. Luo, “Toward a replacement of the CIE color rendering index for white light sources”, Leukos, Apr 2015.

50.       Whitehead, L., “Solid state lighting for illumination and displays: Opportunities and challenges for color excellence”, Information Display 2(15) (invited paper), May 2015.

51.       David, A., Fini, P., Houser, K., Ohno, Y., Royer, M., Smet, K., Minchen, W. and Whitehead, L., “Development of the IES method for evaluating the color rendition of light sources”, Optics Express 23(12), Jun. 2015.

52.       Smet, K., David, A. and Whitehead, L., “Why color space uniformity and sample set spectral uniformity are essential for color rendering measures”, Leukos, Oct 2015.