PORTLAND, Ore. — Three Japanese-born researchers — Shuji Nakamura (who has since migrated to the US), Isamu Akasaki, and Hiroshi Amano — will share the $1.1 million Nobel Prize in Physics for their work inventing the blue light-emitting diode (LED). Their invention paved the way for today's white LED, which has obsoleted both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
Lighting & Energy Electronics Center.
(Image: UCSB/Randall Lamb)
The Nobel Prizes are awarded, not just for scientific achievement, but also for advancements that will have the greatest benefit to mankind. The blue LED has obsoleted incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs by lasting longer and being much more energy efficient.
Few Nobel laureates get to see the effects of their inventions on worldwide quality of life.
“What's really special here, of course, is that this discovery has already changed our quality of life [and] prevented some power plants from needing to be built, because of the low power of LED lamps,” Richard Doherty, research director of the Envisioneering Group, told us. “Also, society is finally appreciating them for their real-world benefits, and that is something very few Nobel laureates can claim to in their lifetime.”
According to the Nobel Prize committee, white LEDs are not only brighter, longer lasting, and more energy efficient, but they are also constantly being improved, with the latest record being 300 lumens per Watt, compared with 70 for fluorescent bulbs and a mere 16 for incandescent bulbs. Since about one-fourth of the world's electricity consumption is for lighting, LEDs are already making a significant contribution to energy conservation. Also, the typical white LED lasts for 100,000 hours, compared with 10,000 for fluorescent and a mere 1,000 for incandescent.
(Image: N. Elmehed/Nobel Media)
For people worldwide who do not live on an energy grid, LED lamps are already improving quality of life, since their low power requirements make them the cheapest form of illumination. They can easily be powered by the energy collected during the day from cheap Chinese photovoltaic panels.
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