Yago Olaizola, expert in physics and optoelectronics, spoke to us about this brilliant technology in honour of the Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to the inventors of the white LED



The United Nations has proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light in order to highlight “the importance of light-based technologies in promoting sustainable development and offering solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.” It may not be a mere coincidence, then, that two of the 2014 Nobel Prizes, announced recently, were awarded to the inventors of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy (Chemistry) and to the inventors of the blue LED (Physics).

The invention of the blue LED led to the creation of the white LED, which is clearly having a positive effect on society. LED lighting is already a reality, and the possibilities for the development of new products, technologies and designs that capitalise on the potential of these new light sources are creating significant economic benefit, changing the classic paradigms established by traditional light sources.

This would have not been possible without the participation of the scientists who were awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics–Nakamura, Akasaki and Amano–who developed the technology that made it possible to manufacture a new material (gallium nitride) that caused light to emit from a PN diode. The specific contribution that was recognized by the Nobel Committee was their development of a novel technique for chemical vapour deposition (CVD), making it possible to grow large quantities of gallium nitride monocrystals on sapphire, to obtain efficient p-type doping, and to develop an industrial process for mass production. This led to the creation of the first blue LED, the ultraviolet LED, the blue laser (used in Blu-ray players), and the white LED.

These scientists' success story is to be admired. Because of their brilliant and focused investigation, they were able to beat the multinational companies Sony and Philips in the race towards the white LED. Thanks to these three researchers, we now have a more efficient, compact, ecological and reliable light source.

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