Trio wins Nobel prize for physics for energy-efficient bulbs

7 Oct 2014

Japanese and American trio Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura have been awarded the Nobel prize for physics for their environmentally friendly light source – the blue light-emitting diode (LED).

The three scientists had first successfully emitted ultra-bright, blue light from their semi-conductors over 20 years ago, but their success had come after 30 years of failed attempts to re-create blue LEDs which was a requirement to create the much-more energy efficient white LEDs.

Until their discovery, the only two LED lights that could be created had been the colours green and red which regardless of effort had failed to produce white light.

The current record for the most efficient light bulb created so far has achieved just over 300 lm/W, which can be compared to 16 for regular light bulbs and close to 70 for fluorescent lamps.

The implementation of white LED bulbs means that as about one-fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, these LEDs contribute to saving the Earth’s resources. It also means that material consumption is also greatly diminished as LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights.

The Nobel committee based in Stockholm, Sweden informed one of the three award-winning physicists, American citizen Shuji Nakamura over a phone call, but committee member Prof Staffan Normark said it should have been a surprise to the three scientists as “they had not been waiting all day and all night for this call”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic