Three scientists who made low energy white lightbulbs or light emitting diodes (LEDs) possible will be beaming today – as they have just won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Their discovery 20 years ago spawned a multi-million pound international industry in efficient lighting.
Explaining its decision, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a paper: “Since lighting represents 20-30% of our electrical energy consumption and since these new white light sources require ten times less energy than ordinary light bulbs, the use of efficient blue LEDs leads to significant energy savings, of great benefit to mankind.”
Research by the trio, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, ended a three-decade-long struggle by producing bright blue light beams from semi-conductors.
This meant low energy lighting with a white appearance could be created: previously with only red and green diodes around, it could not. White light needs a mixture of all three colours.
Akasaki worked with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals a small company in Tokushima.
Woken by a phone call from Nobel’s Chief Scientific Officer to break the news, now California-based Nakamura said he was “very happy”, adding: “When I started on my research I never expected I could invent the LED and laser diode… I was so lucky.”
Research is like a “quiz” you have to find the answer to, he added: “Always there is a problem and I have to solve the problem.”