3 Inventors of LED Lights Win Physics Nobel Prize

3 Inventors of LED Lights Win Physics Nobel Prize
3 Inventors of LED Lights Win Physics Nobel Prize

Three Japan-born scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing LED lights, which help save energy, reduce waste and hold promise in bringing lamps to people living far from any electricity grid.

Isamu Akasaki, 85, from Meijo and Nagoya Universities, Hiroshi Amano, 54, from Nagoya, and Shuji Nakamura, 60, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, will share the 8 million-krona ($1.1 million) prize for the invention of blue-light emitting diodes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said today in Stockholm, Bloomberg reported.  LED bulbs are smaller and more energy-efficient than traditional ones. By inventing them 20 years ago, the three men “triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology,” the academy said in a statement. “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century, the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.”

While red and green light-emitting diodes have been around for almost half a century, blue was needed to complete the trio and create a light that would be white in color. Akasaki and Amano worked together at the University of Nagoya to obtain blue light beams from their semiconductors in the early 1990s, while Nakamura worked at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima, according to the academy.

  Big Impact

They were the first to master the intricate construction needed to build blue LED, said Neil Greenham, a physics professor at the University of Cambridge.

“To make an LED, you need to deposit multiple layers of materials,” Greenham said. “At least part of their achievement was to solve the problem of how to deposit these structures without causing flaws.”

In a light-emitting diode, the electricity is directly converted into light particles, leading to efficiency gains compared with other light sources, where most of the electricity is converted to heat and only a small amount into light.

“What you see is, of course, an enormous increase of power efficiency,” said Olle Inganaes, a professor of biomolecular and organic electronics at Linkoeping University in Sweden. “Something like a fourth of our electricity consumption in most industrialized economies goes to illumination. So having much more light for much less electricity, is going to have a big impact on our modern civilization.”

Manufacturers of LED lights include Royal Philips NV (PHIA) and Osram Licht AG. Nakamura, an American citizen, co-founded a company called Soraa, which uses a different LED technology platform.