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  • LED Inventor Wins $1.3M Millennium Technology Prize
Jun 2006
HELSINKI, Finland, June 16, 2006 -- The inventor of a revolutionary new source of light -- bright-blue, green and white LEDs and the blue laser diode -- has won the world's largest technology prize, the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize, worth an estimated $1.3 million.

Nakamura.jpgShuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, (UCSB) was announced as the prize's winner Thursday by Finland's Millennium Prize Foundation. The award recognizes outstanding technological achievement aimed at promoting quality of life and sustainable development.

"Professor Nakamura has achieved the 'holy grail' of semiconductor research by developing blue, green and white light-emitting diodes and the blue laser diode," said Pekka Tarjanne, chairman of the International Award Selection Committee, the group that selects the prizewinner. "His technological innovations in the field of semiconductor materials and devices are groundbreaking."

Tarjanne said that Nakamura's breakthroughs have a variety of important applications across an array of fields: in communication and information, for improving optical data storage and display; in energy and the environment, by enabling energy-efficient, solid-state lighting and power-switching technology; and in health care and life sciences, through ultraviolet light sources for water purification.

"The University of California has a motto; the English translation is 'Let there be light.' This is a very good motto for our university. It also could serve as a motto for my own research. I hope that, as a result of my work, someday there will be lighting in parts of the world where today there is not even electricity," Nakamura said.

"I also hope this award helps to raise awareness of the energy savings of using LEDs in illumination, so that the world can realize substantial energy savings," Nakamura said. "I plan to donate some of these Millennium Prize funds to further research at universities and groups that help to implement solid-state lighting in the Third World, like the group called Light-Up-The-World or Engineering Without Borders."

Nakamura is a professor of materials and of electrical and computer engineering and is also co-director of UCSB's Solid State Lighting and Display Center. Before joining the university, Nakamura worked in research for Japan's Nichia Chemical, where he initiated the development of novel vapor-phase epitaxial growth techniques to obtain single-crystal GaN (gallium nitride) heteroepitaxial thin films with excellent structural and electrical properties. He continues to develop GaN thin-film technology at UCSB.

Nakamura is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including two Japan Society of Applied Physics awards, Nikkei Best Products and Excellent Products awards, a Society of Information Display Special Recognition Award, the IEEE Laser and Electro-Optics Society Engineering Achievement Award, the Materials Research Society Medal, the IEEE Jack A. Morton Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering. He also has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering.

Officials of the Millennium Prize Foundation said that more than 100 nominations in all fields of technology were received from 32 countries for the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize. Nakamura's selection was made unanimously by the board of the Finnish Technology Award Foundation based on the recommendation of the International Award Selection Committee.

The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded by the Millennium Prize Foundation, an independent Finnish fund. It was created and financed by a partnership of Finnish organizations, Finnish industry and the Finnish state with the objective of promoting technology's role in improving quality of life and enhancing Finland's reputation as a high-technology country. Presented only in alternate years, the Millennium Technology Prize was first awarded in 2004 to Tim Berners-Lee, developer of the World Wide Web.

The award will be presented to Nakamura by the president of Finland at a ceremony in Helsinki on Sept. 8. For more information, visit:

Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
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