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Blog: Nobel Prize in Physics

Judith Hartl / Hannah Fuchs
October 7, 2014

Three Japanese scientists are sharing the Nobel Prize in Physics 2014: Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. Their discovery? They revolutionized the light. Here's a chronical summary of the day.

Shuji Nakamura Hiroshi Amano Isamu Akasaki Nobelpreis 2014 Physik
Image: Reuters/Bertil Ericson

We're closing our blog for now and will be back tomorrow with the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry at around 11:45 a.m. CET.


We have just spoken to Steven P. DenBaars, professor for electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. He works closely with the 'US-Japanese' Nobel Laureate Shuji Nakamura.

DenBaars said:

'I think it is the eventual replacement of almost all other forms of energy inefficient lighting.'

'We will consume a lot less energy for lighting. It is not just light bulbs, but it is also the light in your cell phone screen, even car head lights are now LED.'

'This energy, this technology is already saving the world millions of dollars every year.'

On the winners' research, he said:

'They kept working on the material in the 1980s and 1990s and they really made a breakthrough to get the prize.'


It's because of the work of these three Japanese scientists that blue laser and blue light-emitting diodes are now state-of-the-art. Their invention is ubiquitous and irreplaceable. It's in smartphones, laptops, flashlights or car headlights.


Diodes that emit red and green light have been around for over 50 years.

But to produce white light, LEDs need blue light - together, the blue, green and red make white! Achieving white light was a problem for some time.... until Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura found a solution.

Farbenlehre RGB


An awesome portrait of Shuji Nakamura. Obviously he has been shaped - like many other Japanese people - by comics. One of his childhood heroes is Mighty Atom. Watch this!


Here's one of Nakamura's first comments to DW: 'I'm very happy, I'm so pleased. It is a terrific thing for me.'


Some facts about the Nobel laureates:

  • Shuji Nakamura: 60 years of age; a developer of the first blue LEDs. He is a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
  • Isamu Akasaki: 85 years of age; he produced the first blue LED in 1989.
  • Hiroshi Amano: 54 years of age; professor at Nagoya University. He developed the first blue light-emitting LEDs in 1989, together with Isamu Akasaki.
Bildkombo Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano (vlnr) Nobelpreis 2014 Physik
From left to right: Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano


The invention of the Japanese researchers has revolutionized artificial light, as we use it today. The downside to the first blue LEDs: the light was cold and somewhat unpleasant. But the researchers have also solved that problem and made blue LEDs warmer. German researchers were nominated for the 2013 Future Awards (Deutscher Zukunftspreis) for developing the fluorescent substance that changed the light-spectrum. Here's an article by DW's Fabian Schmidt.


We are very happy about this decision. Last year the price was dedicated - well deserved - to the basic particle research resulting in the detection of the Higgs boson. This time the Nobel committee decided to honour inventors of a product that most people use in their everyday lives.

The function of LEDs:


The Nobel Prize in Physics is for light. More specifically - for the development of blue light-emitting diodes, which allow bright and energy-saving light sources.


A decision has been made. The lucky nobel laureates. Congratulations to Japan!




Here we go, the jury has started selecting the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics.

What do you think? Who should get it? In 2013, Peter Higgs was the clear favorite. But there's no obvious contender this year. So we'll just have to wait and see...