Blue light-emitting diode earns three researchers Nobel Prize in physics

red, green, blue light-emitting diodes
The invention of blue light-emitting diodes has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics.  

Lokal Profil/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Guest post by Andrew Grant

The invention of blue light-emitting diodes has been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics. Blue LEDs, when combined with red and green diodes, produce an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly source of white light when compared with incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.

LEDs use semiconducting materials like the ones in computers and smartphones to generate light from electricity. Red LEDs were developed in the 1960s and green LEDs soon followed, but generating blue light proved tricky. The three Nobel Prize-winners — Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University and Nagoya University in Japan, Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara — solved the problem in the early 1990s using carefully crafted crystals of the semiconductor gallium nitride.

Today, white light using LEDs is increasingly illuminating our world, including areas that don’t have access to electricity grids and rely on cheap, low-output solar cells. The committee referenced Alfred Nobel’s goal of using the awards to promote the “benefit of mankind.”

A more in-depth story on the Nobel-winning research will be posted later today.

Update: A more detailed story has been posted.

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