UCSB Engineering

September 18, 2002

Shuji Nakamura, Inventor of Blue Laser and Blue, Green, and White LEDs, Wins Two Major International Awards

September 18, 2002

San Francisco and Santa Barbara, Calif.--Shuji Nakamura, professor of materials at the University of California at Santa Barbara's College of Engineering, has won two major international awards back-to-back. Today the publication The Economist honored him with an Innovation Award in the singular category of "No Boundaries." Yesterday Nakamura was named co-recipient of a Takeda Award. Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, both of Japan's Meijo University, share one half of the 100 million yen ($833,000) Takeda prize, and the other half is being awarded to Nakamura.

At U.C. Santa Barbara, Nakamura serves as director of the Center for Solid State Lighting and Displays, which is a key component of the California NanoSystems Institute, initiated two years ago by Gov. Gray Davis to seed the future of the State's high tech economy.

Nakamura said, "It isn't often that a person receives two such remarkable honors at almost the same time. I am deeply grateful to The Economist and to the Takeda Foundation for their acknowledgement of the impact of my research. It feels very good to be the beneficiary of this wondrous co-incidence of awards."

Both awards are new. This is the first year for The Economist Innovation Awards and the second for the Takeda Awards.

The Economist Innovation Award focuses on Nakamura's invention of the blue laser. The Takeda Award in recognition of "techno-entrepreneurial achievement for social and economic well-being" honors Nakamura for "the development of blue light emitting semiconductor devices," both the laser and also the Light Emitting Diode (LED). The Takeda Award citation characterizes this achievement as "the final link in completing the light spectrum for semiconductor devices."

Working virtually alone, Nakamura mastered the semiconducting material gallium nitride to create the first blue laser. Gallium nitride is the compound semiconductor that enables the production of the highest frequency of light: green, blue and ultraviolet. That high frequency or short wavelength is so important because the higher the frequency and the shorter the wavelength, the greater the amount of information that can be stored on a CD or DVD.

So Nakamura's blue laser translates into the very real possibility of a 10-fold increase in the amount of information that can be contained on a CD or DVD. This past February nine manufacturers who pioneered DVD technology in the last decade announced agreement on standards based on Nakamura's blue laser technology for a new recordable optical disc format with a six-fold increase over current DVD storage capacity.

Such far-reaching technological innovation accords with the spirit of The Economist Innovation Awards, which honor individuals who have created "the concepts, products and processes that change the way whole industries work; that spawn brand new markets; and that constantly reinvent business." The five announced categories for the Innovation Awards are communications, computing, bioscience, energy and environment, and nanotechnology. Nakamura's sixth "No Boundaries" award underscores the comprehensive impact of his discoveries.

The Innovation Awards are being conferred at the conclusion of the day-long Economist Innovation Conference being held Sept. 18 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

The Takeda Foundation of Tokyo, Japan, yesterday announced two other 100 million yen awards ($833,000) in addition to the one Nakamura shares with Akasaki and Amano.

The three Takeda Awards are presented annually to individuals who, according to the Foundation's press release, "have made outstanding achievements in creating and applying new engineering intellect and knowledge in three fields: social/economic well-being (information and electronics), individual/humanity well-being (the life sciences), and world environmental well-being." Nakamura and his co-recipients are being honored for their contributions to "social/economic well-being."

In addition to the blue laser, the Takeda Award recognizes Nakamura's creation of blue, green, and white LEDs. The energy-efficient white LED will likely replace incandescent lights, which squander most of their energy by putting out more heat than light. White LEDs will use 20 to 50 percent less energy to make light than the conventional incandescent bulb.

Nakamura plans to attend a ceremony honoring the Takeda Award winners on November 20, 2002, in Tokyo, Japan.

Representing Nakamura at the Economist Innovation Awards ceremony is Materials Professor Steven DenBaars, who spearheaded the University of California at Santa Barbara team that was in the vanguard of university-based groups working to develop, in Nakamura's wake, the blue laser. That Santa Barbara blue laser success was a key reason for Nakamura's decision to join the Materials Department and the College of Engineering faculty at the outset of 2000.

Nakamura is in Tokyo to be on hand for the Sept. 19, 3:00 p.m. (Tokyo time) ruling involving litigation with his former employer, Nichia. Following the ruling he plans to give two press conferences: one at the Tokyo District Court at around 3:00 and another in the Emerald Room located on the 35th floor of Tokyo Kaikan at 5:00 p.m.


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Tony Rairden
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