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This month, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for the invention of “efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”.
Why is the creation of the blue LED a significant achievement worth the Nobel Prize? Essentially, these three scientists figured out how to grow gallium nitride, which enables blue LEDs to be produced. When you add red and green LEDs to blue LEDs, or when a blue LED is coated with a phosphor, you create white light. White light made the LED light bulb possible and is the very reason that energy efficient lighting exists today. As the Nobel Committee stated, “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th Century; the 21st Century will be lit by LED lamps”.
When you think that nearly 20% of all electricity worldwide is consumed by light bulbs, the invention of solid state lighting is significant. Not only does solid state lighting reduce energy consumption and therefore lower bills, but it opens up the possibility of providing lighting in areas of the world that previously could not afford it. It also has significant environmental and health benefits, most notably resulting from the exclusion of toxic materials needed for other lighting technologies, such as mercury.
On a personal note, in the last several years I met and spoke with Shuji Nakamura of UCSB and Soraa several times at both private functions and conferences, as, at that time, we were both developing different technological approaches to improving light from semi-conductor material. I was struck then by his vision and drive, as well as his soft-spoken and gentle nature. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Shuji and the other two scientists for finally having their achievements recognized—I know first-hand the difficultly of their feat.
In its own way, this award has given credence to the work that Leapfrog Lighting is doing. We continually strive to provide the best quality of LED lighting at the lowest cost of ownership. We play our part in reducing energy consumption and the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. We bring light to people at an affordable cost. The Nobel Committee, through its award to three LED lighting pioneers, confirmed the high importance of LED lighting and the positive impact it is having on the planet and its people.