Shuji Nakamura (USA) 2015

For the invention, commercialization and development of energy-efficient white LED lighting technology

Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara, Nobel Prize laureate in Physics 2014.


  • Born in Japan in 1954.
  • 1977 – Graduated from Tokushima University as Electronics Engineer. 1979 – Master’s Degree.
  • 1994 – Doctor of Science in Engineering, Tokushima University.
  • 1979 – 1999 – Works at Nichia Chemical Industries.
  • From 1999 to the Present Day – Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara   
  • Since 2003 – Member of the National Academy of Engineering (USA).


  • In 1990, Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED as an employee for Nichia. He was studying gallium nitride films electroplated from organometallic compounds, and he managed to grow multi-layer heterostructures based on gallium nitride with indium additives which added vivid blue color. Until 1990s, LED manufacturers were only able to produce red, yellow, and green diodes. However, only the combination of red, green, and blue can produce pure white and, hence, virtually any color on the scale.  By 1993, Nichia was the first and only company in the world to have started the commercial production of blue LEDs. 
  • Nakamura’s invention was a necessary precondition for the further invention of LED lamps and has brought a true revolution to outdoor LED screens. The scientist’s inventions are used by all companies involved with manufacture of semiconductors, mobile phones, digital camera recorders, TV and DVD appliances, airplane and car systems, street lighting systems, and traffic lights.
  • The first and foremost advantage of the blue LED is that it opens new approaches to obtaining pure white color. The efficiency of a white LED is 2 times the one of a fluorescent lamp and 10 times then one of a traditional incandescent bulb. According to DOE reports, transition to LED-based lighting will allow 300 TW•h savings and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 210 million metric tons only in the USA.
  • Mr. Nakamura won the following awards: 1998 – C&C Prize, 2000 – Carl Zeiss Award, 2002 – Benjamin Franklin Medal by the Franklin Institute, 2006 – Millenium Technology Award, 2008 – Prince of Asturias Award, 2009 – Harvey Prize, 2011 – named Inventor of the Year by Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Law Association, 2012 – Emmy Award by the USA National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Technology & Engineering Emmy Award), 2014 – Nobel Prize in Physics, 2015 – Charles Stark Draper Prize.
  • He is an author of around 550 publications.


  • In 2001, the scientist sued Nichia Chemical Industries after the corporation refused to pay Nakamura his discovery bonus. The initial bonus amounted to 20 thousand Japanese yen (around $180). In 2004, he managed to adjudge 20 billion yen (around $189 million) from his former employer for the several years it had been manufacturing blue LEDs while not rewarding their inventor with even a single check. However, Nichia Chemical Industries appealed against the court’s decision, which has led to the parties agreeing on 840 million yen (around $9 million) in 2005.
  • Mr. Nakamura is a consultant of Cree Inc., the biggest producer of semiconductors in the USA, one of the leading producers of silicon carbide crystals used in power electronics components, and the main competitor of Nichia in the manufacture of crystals for blue and green LEDs.
  • The scientist is most fascinated with the origins of life in the Universe and wants to know if the Universe is truly expanding. He considers integrated circuits, Internet, and photocells to be among the most important technology inventions of humanity in the last 50 years.
  • He also thinks that the time for white household LEDs is yet to come… say, in 10 years. When it finally happens, the electricity bills will become ridiculously small. Right now, however, their manufacturing technology is too expensive.


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