Winner of the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize
Japanese-born Professor Shuji Nakamura is the second winner of the Millennium Technology Prize – and received the 2006 Prize for his work on gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and lasers.
Born in Japan in 1954, with a doctorate in engineering from the University of Tokushima, Professor Nakamura became interested in low-energy LEDs and related laser technology early on, and has made numerous breakthroughs in these areas since the 1980s. Based at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) since 2000, he heads up research at the Solid State Lighting and Display Center there, and has built up a significant research programme in new areas of gallium nitride research.
Drawing on groundbreaking work on GaN and new Metal-Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition (MOCVD) techniques, Professor Nakamura stunned the optoelectronic community in 1993 with the announcement of very-bright blue GaN-based LEDs. In rapid succession, he then announced a green GaN-based LED, a blue laser diode, and a white LED – all developments that other researchers in the semiconductor field had spent decades trying to achieve.
His pioneering work on LEDs and laser technology has already opened up exciting possibilities for new energy-saving sources of light.
LED lights have extremely long lives and consume far less energy than normal incandescent lamps. Estimates by the Department of Energy in the US indicate that close to USD 100 billion could be saved in energy costs by 2020 if we were to switch to solid-state lighting. This would not only reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions, but could also have a dramatic effect on limiting global warming.
Professor Nakamura's innovations could have a fundamental impact on the lives of millions of people, particularly in developing countries. Lighting applications powered by solar electricity made possible by his inventions are ideal for countries like these, as well as applications for water sterilisation, which are currently the subject of extensive development efforts