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Semiconductor Today Magazine


16 June 2006


Nakamura’s LED revolution wins him Millennium Technology Prize

Professor Shuji Nakamura has received the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize for his revolutionary development of blue, green and white LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), and blue lasers. Awarded by Finland’s Millennium Prize Foundation for innovations that improve the quality of human life and well being, the technology prize is the largest in the world, with a value of one million euros. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony to be held in Helsinki on September 8, 2006.

Nakamura’s work launched a new sector in light-producing semiconductor research and development, one of the most significant future applications of which is the sterilisation of drinking water using ultraviolet LEDs. The technology offers highly efficient, cost effective water purification which will improve the lives of millions of people.

”Shuji Nakamura is a splendid example of perseverance and dedicated research work, and of making a major breakthrough. He has worked with great determination for decades, and even severe setbacks have not prevented him from achieving something that other workers in the field regarded as almost impossible: using a reactor system of his own design to develop a solid material, in this case gallium nitride, into a powerful light source producing blue, green and white light, and also creating a blue laser. The lighting applications now made possible by his achievement can be compared with Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent lamp. In the course of time, energy-efficient light sources based on Shuji Nakamura’s innovation will undoubtedly become predominant,” says Pekka Tarjanne, Chairman of the International Selection Committee.

Born in Japan on the island of Shikoku in 1954, Nakamura received his master’s degree in 1979 from the University of Tokushima, before starting as an engineer at a phosphor company, Nichia Chemical. Working at Nichia’s laboratory, with a limited budget, he developed a Metal-Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition (MOCVD) two-flow growth system that led to the successful epitaxial growth of GaN in 1989.

In 1992, he made a fundamental breakthrough by producing p-type GaN. Shortly after, Nakamura demonstrated a very-bright blue GaN-based LED, and two years later he followed with a green GaN-based LED, a blue laser diode, and a white LED.

Nakamura received his doctorate in engineering at the University of Tokushima in 1994, and in 1999 he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). His current research focuses on developing: full-colour LEDs, efficient white-LED light bulbs, laser diodes and high-power, microwave communication devices.

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