Blue LED inventors receive Nobel Prizes

Blue LED inventors receive Nobel Prizes
From left, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura display the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics they jointly won after the award presentation ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday.

STOCKHOLM - The three inventors of blue light-emitting diodes received the Nobel Prize in Physics at a ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday, while education advocates Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India were presented with the Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo City Hall on the same day.

Meijo University Prof. Isamu Akasaki, Nagoya University Prof. Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were given the award for their invention and development of the energy-efficient, environmentally friendly light source.

The ceremony started in a concert hall at 4:30 p.m. A member of the Nobel Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences read the names of Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura out loud. The three physicists then walked to centre stage, where they were each presented with a medal and prize certificate by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf, who shook their hands.

Akasaki and Amano successfully created fine gallium nitride crystals with the properties needed for efficient light emission - a feat many researchers had unsuccessfully attempted. This development would later form the basic technology of blue LEDs. Nakamura then independently refined a method of manufacturing the crystals that led to their mass production.

Light is made up of three primary colors - red, green and blue - that form white when mixed. Red and green LEDs had already been produced, but blue had long eluded physicists. The creation of blue LEDs paved the way for the creation of highly efficient white LEDs, a next-generation light source that is now widely used in place of incandescent and fluorescent lamps.

In a speech at the ceremony, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics lauded the trio's discovery.

"By using an LED lamp for lighting … we save energy and thereby protect the environment," the committee member said. "More than a century ago, Alfred Nobel wrote in his will that the Nobel Prize in Physics should be awarded to those who shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. This year's prize fulfills Alfred Nobel's wish extremely well."

Akasaki, 85; Amano, 54; and Nakamura, 60, will share equally the prize of 8 million Swedish kronor (S$1.39 million).

Japan has produced 22 Nobel winners. The last Japanese to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics were Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Masukawa in 2008.

Long-time dream

Later that day, Nakamura gave a speech in English on behalf of the three Nobel laureates in physics at a banquet at the Stockholm Town Hall. He emphasised the significance of inventing the LEDs, which are 10 times more energy-efficient than conventional light bulbs.

LEDs can also help the fight against global warming, Nakamura said. Bringing LEDs to the commercial market for everyone had been the three laureates' long-time dream, and it is an honour to see that dream now coming true, he added.

"It was a wonderful award ceremony. I was really moved," said Akasaki.

Meanwhile, Amano said: "I was extremely nervous. I feel relieved for now."

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