Three physicists have won the Nobel Prize for revolutionizing the way the world is lighted.
The 2014 physics award goes to Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and Shuji Nakamura of UC 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 in its prize citation. “They succeeded where everyone else had failed.”
The Nobel committee said that light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, would be the lighting source of the 21st century, just as the incandescent bulb illuminated the 20th.
It called the new light source brighter, cleaner and longer-lasting than previous sources and said it would save energy as well as improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world.
The three scientists will split a prize of $1.1 million, to be awarded in Stockholm on Dec. 10.
Akasaki, 85, of Meijo University and Nagoya University, and Amano, 54, of Nagoya University, are Japanese citizens. Nakamura, 60, is an American citizen. Awakened at 3 a.m. his time by a phone call from the Swedish academy, he described the news 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 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.”
In Africa, for example, millions of diode lamps have been handed out to replace polluting kerosene lamps.
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SOURCE: SF Gate, NY Times