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7 January 2015

LED lighting pioneers win Draper Prize for Engineering

The US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is awarding the 2015 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering to Isamu Akasaki, M. George Craford, Russell Dupuis, Nick Holonyak Jr and Shuji Nakamura for “the invention, development, and commercialization of materials and processes for light-emitting diodes (LEDs)”. The prize will be presented at a gala dinner in Washington D.C. on 24 February.

The $500,000 annual Draper Prize was established in 1988 at the request of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc in Cambridge, MA, to honor the memory of ‘Doc’ Draper, the ‘father of inertial navigation’, and to increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology. It is the NAE’s highest honor and is given to engineers for achievements that have significantly benefited society by improving the quality of life, and/or expanding access to information.

“These prize-winning engineers were the pioneers in a technology that has changed the world we live in, from the aesthetics in our homes, to advancements in our visual capabilities, and to environmental stewardship,” comments NAE president C D. Mote Jr.

The first visible red LED was created by Nick Holonyak Jr in 1962 while working at General Electric Co, where his work involved the study of III-V materials including gallium arsenide (GaAs). Holonyak found that when he added phosphorus (P) to gallium arsenide, the result was a shortened wavelength, which allowed him to make use of the light-emission properties of diodes, ultimately turning the infrared light to red. Holonyak hence created the GaAsP LED (the underpinning of all high-brightness LEDs made today).

In 1972, George Craford invented the first yellow LED and increased its brightness by adding nitrogen to the GaAsP LED. Craford also participated in developing processes for the first large-scale commercial production of red LEDs. He subsequently led work that resulted in the first high-brightness yellow and red LEDs, available in 1992, and later contributed to the development of high-power white LEDs.

Russell Dupuis developed and refined the metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) process in 1977, which enabled the production of high-brightness LEDs and is now the basis of virtually all production of high-brightness LEDs, laser diodes, solar cells, and high-speed optoelectronic devices.

In 1987 Isamu Akasaki used MOCVD to grow high-quality gallium nitride crystals on sapphire substrates, creating the first blue LED (which subsequently enabled bright, energy-saving white light sources).

In 1992, Shuji Nakamura made major contributions to InGaN-based high-brightness double-heterostructure blue LEDs, as well as laser diodes that allowed development of the high-density digital video disk (Blu Ray DVD). The commercialization of high-brightness blue and white LEDs hence grew rapidly and led to the many LED and laser diode applications in use today. Nakamura, who is a professor of materials and of electrical & computer engineering at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), last year received the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics (shared with professors Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano) in recognition of the development of the first high-brightness blue LED.

Long-lasting, low-heat-generating and highly energy-efficient LEDs have been used as indicator lamps and read-out displays since its early days. As the lights got brighter and different colors were developed, the applications proliferated. LEDs are now found in the latest computer monitors, cell-phone screens, TV screens, traffic lights, vehicle lamps, home lighting, and as solar-powered night-time lighting in parts of the world where people have no access to electricity. The $33bn LED industry has stimulated global job growth and dramatically lowered the cost of energy. In 2012 alone, more than 49 million LEDs were installed in the USA, with an estimated annual savings of $675m in energy costs. In 2013, LEDs in general lighting applications saw rapid growth, saving the USA more than 12 million tons of CO2 emissions, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE). LEDs also produce the greatest amount of light for the energy used, and have the longest lifetime of any lighting source available.

See related items:

Professors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura awarded Nobel Prize for physics

Tags: Blue LEDs

Visit: www.nae.edu

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