STOCKHOLM—Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, a breakthrough that spurred the development of LED technology used to light up computer screens and modern smartphones.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says their invention is just 20 years old, “but it has already contributed to create white light in an entirely new manner to the benefit of us all.”
Scientists had struggled for decades to produce the blue diodes that are a crucial component in producing white light from LEDs when the three laureates made their breakthroughs in the early 1990s.
Their work transformed lighting technology, paving the way for LED lights that are more long-lasting and energy-efficient than older sources of light.
“They succeeded where everyone else had failed,” the Nobel committee said. “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.”
Akasaki, 85, is a professor at Meijo University and distinguished professor at Nagoya University. Amano, 54, is also a professor at Nagoya University, while the 60-year-old Nakamura is a Japanese-born professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Akasaki said in a nationally-televised news conference that he had often been told that his research wouldn't bear fruit within the 20th century.
“But I never felt that way,” he said. “I was just doing what I wanted to do.”
Akasaki and Amano made their inventions while working at Nagoya University while Nakamura was working separately at Japanese company Nichia Chemicals. They built their own equipment and carried out thousands of experiments — many of which failed — before they made their breakthroughs.
In a statement from his university, Nakamura said he was honoured to receive the prize.
“It is very satisfying to see that my dream of LED lighting has become a reality,” he said. “I hope that energy-efficient LED light bulbs will help reduce energy use and lower the cost of lighting worldwide.”
The Nobel committee said LEDs contribute to saving the Earth's resources because about one-fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes.
They are more efficient than older light sources, and tend to last 10 times longer than fluorescent lamps and 100 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
“The blue LED is a fundamental invention that that is rapidly changing the way we bring light to every corner of the home, the street and the workplace — a practical invention that comes from a fundamental understanding of physics in the solid state,” said H. Frederick Dylla, the executive director and CEO of the American Institute of Physics.
Phillip Schewe, a physicist at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, said the prize shows that physics research can provide a practical benefit, rather than just probing the mysteries of the universe.
On Monday, U.S.-British scientist John O'Keefe split the Nobel Prize in medicine with Norwegian couple May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for breakthroughs in brain cell research that could pave the way for a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's.
The Nobel award in chemistry will be announced Wednesday, followed by the literature award on Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the economics prize on Monday.
Worth 8 million kronor ($1.1 million) each, the Nobel Prizes are always handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896. Besides the prize money, each laureate receives a diploma and a gold medal.
Nobel, a wealthy Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, provided few directions for how to select winners, except that the prize committees should reward those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
- Associated Press reporter Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, and Malcolm Ritter in New York, contributed to this report.
Blue LED inventors win Nobel Prize for "energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly light source"
Incandescent light bulbs have lit the 20th century....
Years ago we said that LEDs are without a doubt the future. But time marches on, and LEDs are not just the future anymore, they're the present thanks to rapidly falling prices and improving quality. We've firmly entered into the LED era, as Lloyd showed with his experience of converting 100% of his lights to LEDs.
The Nobel committee seems to agree. The physics Nobel Prize this year is going to three distinguished scientists - Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura - who invented the blue LED, the last piece of the puzzle that was required for LEDs to truly reach their potential as a mass-market light source.
Why was blue so important? Because without it, we couldn't make high-quality white light from LEDs.
"Red and green LEDs have been around for a long time but blue was really missing. Thanks to the blue LED we now can get white light sources which have very high energy efficiency and very long lifetime," Per Delsing, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told a news conference.
Nobel Prize/Screen capture
...the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps
As you can see on the graphic below, LEDs crush the competition when it comes to efficiency. Most LED lights that you can buy right now are nowhere near the 300 lumens/watt shown here, but this is what we know they are capable of, and over the coming years we should progressively move closer to that target.
About 20% of the world's electricity is used for lighting. With optimal use of LEDs, that figure could fall to 4%. That's a really big deal. This represents the equivalent of hundreds of large power plants that would no longer be necessary, and by reducing electricity consumption, it will be easier to switch to clean sources of energy like solar and wind.
Nobel Prize/Screen capture
But energy-efficiency isn't the only thing. Material efficiency is also much higher for LEDs than the competition. A LED can last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights. This means that only a fraction of the bulbs need to be produced and disposed of over time. In applications like traffic and street lights, it also reduces the need to have crews driving around, burning fuel, just to replace burned out lights.
© Michael Graham Richard
LEDs are not only way more efficient than incandescent technology, which is sadly still by far the most popular out there, but because they emit light more directionally, they can also be better cutomized to various applications. For example, these LED floodlights cost 50% less than the version they replace and cut energy use by 70%.
Some cities, like Buenos Aires, have started replacing street lights with LED. Buenos Aires is switching around 100,000 street lamps to LED technology, cutting energy use by 50%. The quality of light is also improved, so that people can better see when they're out at night.
BY Michael Graham Richard Technology /Clean Technology
Inventors of blue LEDs win 2014 Nobel Prize for physics
The 2014 Nobel Prize for physics is being awarded to three scientists credited with inventing efficient blue LEDs, a development that allowed for the creation of the white LED light sources that are inching toward ubiquity across the globe. Though LEDs of other colors have been around since the mid 1900s, the blue LED proved far more difficult to create as researchers struggled to find a material that would produce blue light. The three researchers being awarded today, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura, recognized that gallium nitride would lead to a blue color and discovered a way to produce the light in an efficient way by adding in aluminum and indium.
Red, green, and blue light needs to be combined to create white light, so the work of Akasaki, Amano, and Nakamura provided the final piece to a long-running puzzle. Since then, white LED lights have increased in efficiency and are slowly becoming more prevalent. "The LED lamp holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids," The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explains, "due to low power requirements it can be powered by cheap local solar power." The winners will split a prize of 8 million Swedish Krona, or about $1.1 million USD.
"Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century," the Academy writes, "the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps."
By Jacob Kastrenakes The Verge