Japanese academics Isamu Akasaki (Nagoya University), Hiroshi Amano (Nagoya University) and Shuji Nakamura (UC Santa Barbara) created the first blue LEDs over two decades ago by combining blue light with existing red and green LEDs. This innovation led the way for a new generation of bright, energy-efficient white lamps as well as sharper LED displays and screens.

The announcement that the three engineers were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics was made in Stockholm, Sweden on Tuesday, October 7th. The three will share prize money of eight million kronor ($1.1 million).

2014 Nobel Prize In Physics Goes To Blue LED Inventors

Nobel Prize In Physics  -Statements from Nobel Prize in Physics committee jurors

In its announcement of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, the jury highlighted the usefulness of the invention, and noted that Nobel Prizes were established to recognize developments that delivered “the greatest benefit to mankind”.

“These uses are what would make Alfred Nobel very happy,” said Prof. Olle Inganas, a member of the prize committee from Linkoping University.

Prof Per Delsing, from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, the chair of the committee, pointed to the winners’ dedication.

“What’s fascinating is that a lot of big companies really tried to do this and they failed,” he said. “But these guys persisted and they tried and tried again – and eventually they actually succeeded.”

Nobel Prize In Physics – Blue and white LED breakthroughs

The blue LEDs developed by the trio are now found inside the flashlights and screens of millions of smartphones.

Another related innovation, white LED lamps, meanwhile, provide inexpensive natural white light to offices and homes around the world. LED lamps require much less energy than either incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.

The improvement in energy efficiency derives from LEDs converting electricity directly into photons of light, rather than the less efficient mixture of heat and light produced inside traditional bulbs. Incandescent bulbs heat a wire filament until it glows, and the gas discharge inside fluorescent lamps also creates heat and light.

Current is applied to a sandwich of semiconductor materials in an LED, which causes the materials to emit a particular wavelength of light based on the chemical make-up of the semiconductor.