Lighting up the world

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Isamu Akasaki Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan and Nagoya University, Japan, Hiroshi Amano Nagoya University, Japan and Shuji Nakamura University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”. This is most definitely a discovery in physics, but as with so many discoveries in other sciences, chemistry underpins the research. Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura produced bright blue light from semiconductor devices based on gallium nitride and related compounds in the early 1990s. Akasaki worked together with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima. Blue LEDs found their way into optical storage via the blue laser diode and are used to produce low-energy white light LEDs for domestic and other applications.