Nobel Prize Goes to Inventors of LED Lights

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physics goes to three scientists for their work on the LED light bulb, "an invention of greatest benefit to mankind."

In the early 1990s, they overcame decades of unsuccessful efforts to produce bright blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), paving the way for a fundamental transformation of lighting technology.

"Their inventions are revolutionary. While incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century, the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps," says the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize.

The winners of the $1.1 million prize are three engineers – Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano from Japan and Shuji Nakamura, from the US.  

Shuji Nakamura, Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki:

Nobel Prize 2014
Jiji Press/AFP/Getty

"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 – due to low power requirements it can be powered by cheap local solar energy," they explain.

Indeed, with widespread adoption of LEDs, the 20% of world electricity that’s currently consumed by lighting, can be cut to 4%, Dirk Poelman, a materials scientist at Belgium’s Ghent University, told Nature. LEDs are about 20 times more energy efficient than incandescents.

LEDs also have a much lighter environmental footprint because of their very long life, which drastically reduces the materials required to manufacture lights. They last 10 times longer than fluorescent lamps and 100 times longer than incandescents.

In the future, blue LEDs could even be used in portable devices that disinfect or sterilize water, and light could replace electricity for storing computer data, Poelman told Nature.

Read our article, The Future for LED Lighting: Improving Health & Mood.

By 2020, LEDs will have a 70% market share in a $100 billion market, up from 18% in 2012, General Electric told Reuters.

Learn more about Blue LEDs:

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