In DepthNobel Prizes

Physicists change the light bulb

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 149-150
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.149-b

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The invention of the blue light-emitting diode (LED), which initiated a revolution in artificial lighting, captured this year's Nobel Prize in physics for a trio of Japanese researchers. LEDs have been commercially available since the 1960s, but they came only in a limited range of colors. Without a blue LED, there was no way to generate white light. Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, working together at Nagoya University, and Shuji Nakamura, then at Nichia Corp., managed to fabricate diodes out of gallium nitride, a material other researchers had given up on. Blue LEDs are now at the center of numerous consumer electronic gadgets and in general-purpose lighting where their high efficiency promises dramatic energy savings that will help protect the environment.