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Blue LED Inventors Win Nobel Prize

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.

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three researchers, including Shuji Nakamura, professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nakamura is also co-director of the UCSB Solid StateLighting & Energy Electronics Center.(Image: UCSB/Randall Lamb)

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three researchers, including Shuji Nakamura, professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nakamura is also co-director of the UCSB Solid State
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.

Isamu Akasaki.(Image: N. Elmehed/Nobel Media)

Isamu Akasaki.
(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.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site EETimes.

7 comments on “Blue LED Inventors Win Nobel Prize

  1. Susan Fourtané
    October 10, 2014

    It's nice to see when Nobel Prezes are given to the right people for the right reasons. 

    -Susan

  2. SunitaT
    October 10, 2014

    Seconded that. Most people wouldn't have had so much free ability to move around without the tension of energy being spent without the discovery of LEDs. Also, smart LED's will be used to power the streets of various cities when smart city modules come out.

  3. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 10, 2014

    This headline took me down memory lane. I was a cub reporter on EBN in the early 1990s (I say dating myself) and one of my very first page one stories was about commercial availabilities of blue LEDs. At the time, it was important because of signage issues and wanting to make a variety of colors in the signs. I have to admit i didn't forsee the importance of it at the time.

  4. prabhakar_deosthali
    October 12, 2014

    The importance this discovery has major impact on the lighting industry.

     

    Alongwith RED and GREEN LEDS the BLUE LED completes the basic color set using which White light can be generated and such white light based illumination systems can replace today's Fluoresecnt Bulbs and tubes , resulting in huge energy savings and having longer life expectancy.

  5. Ariella
    October 13, 2014

    Is blue particularly challenging because of its short wavelength?

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 22, 2014

    @Ariella, blue is challenging. if i remember correctly it was about finding a material the emits the right light spectrum. The early ones (back in 1989) were based on silicon carbide which was hideously inefficient. This new generation was made with gallium nitride, but its hard to make that compound bright.  Blue is critically important because you need blue to get white.

  7. Ariella
    October 22, 2014

    @Hailey very interesting!

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