Millennium Technology Award feature on Professor Shuji Nakamura


We catch up with the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize winner, Shuji Nakamura, to reflect on the impact of the award, his illuminating LED invention – and what he’s achieved since

FEB 3, 2022

Shuji Nakamura astonished the scientific community in 1993. More than a century after Thomas Edison created the incandescent lightbulb, Professor Nakamura took the last step in finding a super-efficient natural successor.  

The 39-year-old, who was working for the Japanese engineering corporation, Nichia,  unveiled his new invention: a blue light-emitting diode (LED). Others had tried something similar before, but by using gallium nitride as the key element instead of the more usual zinc selenide, Shuji’s blue LED actually worked. From there, he was able to add phosphor to develop ultra-efficient white LEDs, the Holy Grail of lighting. They have subsequently been used everywhere from car lights to office buildings. Indeed, you’re probably reading this article on your phone, laptop or iPad on a liquid-crystal display backlit by white  LED lights.

In 2006, the Millennium Technology Prize judges recognised him for the huge impact his work had made. He fondly remembers the occasion. 

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George Foulsham, UCSB
George Foulsham, UCSB