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Nobel Laureate to speak on changing the illumination of the world

Shuji Nakamura helped illuminate the world.

Thanks to the Nobel Laureate, his invention of the first bright gallium nitride (GaN) blue LED light was a critical component in the creation of energy-efficient white LEDs, the standard for high-efficiency lighting in homes today. He, along with fellow engineers and physicists Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for his work.

Nakamura, who currently is a professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will be this year’s speaker at the University of Utah Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s “Frontiers in Engineering Innovation” Judd Distinguished Lecture Series. He will talk about how his research into blue LEDs helped revolutionize the use of LEDs in everything from high-efficiency lighting and displays to data storage.

The lecture will be held over Zoom Friday, March 12, at 3:05 p.m. The event is open to all students, faculty and interested members of the public. Click here to RSVP and receive a Zoom link to the lecture.

Nakamura earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Tokushima, Japan. He joined Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd. in 1979 and spent a year at the University of Florida as a visiting research associate. He has been with the University of California, Santa Barbara, since 2000 and holds more than 200 U.S. patents and more than 300 Japanese patents. He has published over 700 papers in his field.

In 1993 and 1995, he developed the first group-III nitride-based high-brightness blue/green LEDs. While red and green LED lights were easier to create, it was the invention of blue LEDs that eventually led to the development of the white LED, the technology behind today’s LED lightbulbs. LED bulbs are more energy efficient than older incandescent bulbs and last much longer. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are used for everything from flat-screen televisions, computers, smartphones to traffic lights. Nakamura also developed the first group-III nitride-based violet laser diodes in 1995, a major component used today in Blu-ray players.

In addition to the Nobel, Nakamura had received numerous awards for his work including the Benjamin Franklin Medal Award (2002), the Millennium Technology Prize (2006), the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical Scientific Research (2008) and The Harvey Award (2009). He was elected as a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2003 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. He received the 2015 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering and the 2015 Global Energy Prize in Russia. This year, he will receive the Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering.

The lecture will include introductions by University of Utah College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown and U electrical and computer engineering Distinguished Professor Gerald Stringfellow, who also is a pioneer in LEDs and created a process called organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy in the development of red, orange, yellow and green LED crystals.

The Judd Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible through a generous endowment from Thomas and Mary Judd.