A research team from the Darmstadt-based company Merck have won the German Future Prize 2003 for work on flat-screen liquid crystal television screens. German President Johannes Rau awarded Kazuaki Tarumi, Melanie Klasen-Memmer, Matthias Bremer the prize, which comes with a cash award of €250,000 ($294,000), on Thursday evening in Berlin’s Technical Museum. The researchers were singled out for their work in improving flat-screen technology and for developing liquid crystals that result in brighter, sharper TV pictures with higher contrast. The team has worked on the technology since the mid-90s, striving to optimize liquid crystal substances that consist of 20 to 30 different components. Merck beat out three other teams which were nominated, whose projects were an electronic museum guide, an intelligent accident-prevention system for cars and an electronic “cage” for living cells.