New light to illuminate world

 Three physicists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for revolutionising the way the world is lighted: Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. The Nobel Committee rewarded them for inventing a new energy-efficient and eco-friendly light source – the blue light-emitting diode (LED). In the spirit of Alfred Nobel the Prize rewards an invention of greatest benefit to mankind; using blue LEDs, white light can be created in a new way. With the advent of LED lamps, we now have more long-lasting and more efficient alternatives to older light sources.
Journey towards new lightWhen Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.
They succeeded where everyone else had failed. Akasaki worked together with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima. Their inventions were revolutionary. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.
Saving energy and resourcesWhite LED lamps emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient. They are constantly improved, getting more efficient with higher luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input power (measured in watt). The most recent record is just over 300 lm/W, which can be compared to 16 for regular light bulbs and close to 70 for fluorescent lamps. As about one fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, the LEDs contribute to saving the Earth’s resources. Materials consumption is also diminished as LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights.
A bluer revolutionOne-fourth of the world’s electrical energy consumption goes to producing light, and LED lamp holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people who lack access to electricity grids.
The invention of the efficient blue LED is just 20 years old, but it has already contributed to create white light in an entirely new manner to the benefit of us all.

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