Three physicists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for revolutionizing the way the world is lighted.
The 2014 physics award went to Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for “the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”
The three scientists, working together and separately, found a way to produce blue light beams from semiconductors in the early 1990s. Others had produced red and green diodes, but without blue diodes, white light could not be produced, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday morning in its prize citation.
“They succeeded where everyone else had failed,” the academy said.
Their work has spurred the creation of a whole new industry. The committee that chose the winners said light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, would be the lighting source of the 21st century, just as the incandescent bulb illuminated the 20th.
The three scientists will split a prize of $1.1 million, to be awarded in Stockholm on Dec. 10.
Isamu Akasaki of Japan reacted to being awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics after Staffan Normark, the permanent secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announced the decision.
Publish Date October 7, 2014. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
Dr. Akasaki, 85, of Meijo University and Nagoya University, and Dr. Amano, 54, of Nagoya University, are Japanese. Dr. Nakamura, 60, is American. Awakened by a phone call from the Swedish academy, he described it in a news conference as “unbelievable.”
In its announcement, the academy recalled Alfred Nobel’s desire that his prize be awarded for something that benefited humankind, noting that one-fourth of the world’s electrical energy consumption goes to producing light. This, it said, was a prize more for invention than for discovery.
Frances Saunders, president of the Institute of Physics, a worldwide scientific organization based in London, agreed with those sentiments. Noting in an email statement that 2015 is the International Year of Light, she said, “This is physics research that is having a direct impact on the grandest of scales, helping protect our environment, as well as turning up in our everyday electronic gadgets.”