The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on Tuesday to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which have "enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources."
Akasaki, 85, of Japan, is a professor at Meijo University, Nagoya and a distinguished professor at Nagoya University. Since the 1960s, Akasaki has been researching ways to overcome the roadblocks facing high-performance blue LEDs and lasers. For his efforts, he has received the 2009 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology and the 2011 IEEE Edison Medal.
Amano, 54, of Japan, is also a professor at Nagoya University.
Nakamura, 60, a Japanese-American, is a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A recipient of the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize and the 2009 Harvey Prize, Nakamura has also worked on green LEDs, and created the white LED and blue laser diodes that are used in Blu-Ray discs and HD DVDs.
Red and green light-emitting diodes had been around for decades, but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Working together and separately, Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura devised those bright blue beams from their semiconductors, and launched "a fundamental transformation in light technology."
With the advent of LED lamps, humanity now has longer lasting and more-efficient light sources. Using the same amount of energy, LED bulbs produce four times the light of a fluorescent bulb and nearly 20 times the light of a standard incandescent bulb, The New York Times reported.
"Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated.
The Academy awards the Nobel Prize annually to "the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics." It is one of five Nobel Prizes established by Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, in his will in 1895.
Between 1901 and 2013, more than 560 Nobel Prizes were awarded to 876 people and organizations. Nobel laureates receive the title, a diploma, a gold medal and about $1.1 million in award money. If two winners are chosen for a single category, the prize is split in half. When more than two people or organizations are selected, the prize is distributed at the judges' discretion.
Click here for a complete list of past laureates in this category.