23 January 2020
Nakamura to receive National Academy of Sciences 2020 Award for Industrial Application of Science
Shuji Nakamura, a professor of materials and of electrical and computer engineering at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), has been selected to receive the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) 2020 Award for the Industrial Application of Science for “pioneering discoveries, synthesis and commercial development of gallium nitride LEDs and their use in sustainable solid-state light sources, which are reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions while also reducing costs to those adopting this technology”. Presented triennially, the award (which this year focuses on sustainability) “recognizes applications in industry of significant achievements in science”.
The award “recognizes the huge impact of GaN LEDs and lasers,” says Nakamura, who also co-directs UCSB’s Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center. “LED lighting is over 80% energy efficient and saves consumers vast amounts on their electricity costs while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions,” he adds. “I’m also excited about emerging applications such as micro-LED displays and laser lighting — which is 100 times brighter than LEDs — and promises automobile headlamps, laser projectors, and a next generation of general illumination sources.”
In practical use since the 1960s, the red LED was invented first, followed by orange, yellow and green LEDs within a decade or so. However, as the technology behind those LEDs improved, blue (with its short wavelength and high frequency) remained beyond the reach of conventional materials and methods for about two decades.
As a researcher for Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd in Japan in the 1990s, Nakamura began to experiment with GaN, which was then prone to defects. By developing a technique of two-flow metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), he enabled the growth of high-quality GaN crystals, providing the foundation for bright-blue LEDs. After joining the faculty at UCSB in 2000, in 2014 Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the blue LED, along with Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki of Nagoya University.
Nakamura’s research “made widespread LED lighting possible,” comments Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering.
Nakamura continues his work on solid-state lighting with his colleagues at UCSB, improving on the techniques for producing ultraviolet, blue, green, yellow and red LEDs, as well as developing laser-based lighting, vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) and high-efficiency power electronics.
Nakamura will receive the award (which includes a prize of $25,000) at a ceremony during the NAS annual meeting in April in Washington DC.