Nobel Prize in Physics to SSL inventors

Today, the IEA 4E SSL Annex congratulated Professors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for their joint award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. These three scientists achieved a milestone in developing blue-light LEDs which has revolutionised the lighting industry by enabling general illumination white-light LED products. Today, white light LED products are penetrating markets all over the world, offering consumers and businesses high quality lighting using 50-90% less electricity than the traditional technologies they replace.

“We were very pleased to learn today that the Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to these three distinguished scientists for inventing the blue-light LED” said Dr. Peter Bennich, chairman of the SSL Annex’s Management Committee and representative of the Swedish Energy Agency, one of the Annex’s member countries. “The Nobel Prize is awarded to people whose invention is of greatest benefit to mankind. These gentlemen have invented a product that offers better service, lower life-cycle costs, and will reduce up to 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise been needed for lighting our offices and homes.”

Red and green light emitting diodes have been in existence for decades, but without blue light, the colour spectrum was incomplete and white light could not be created. Despite considerable investment by research teams over many years, blue LED remained an elusive goal. But these scientists applied their expertise and succeeded where everyone else had failed. Akasaki worked together with Amano at Nagoya University in Japan, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima, Japan.

By enabling white-light products for general illumination, their pioneering inventions will forever change the way we illuminate our buildings. According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s en.lighten initiative, in 2010 lighting consumed approximately 15% of all electricity globally. Good quality white-light LED lamps can reduce the proportion of electricity used for lighting considerably – while providing users with a high-quality, energy-efficient bright light. Furthermore, the technology continues to evolve, with LED manufacturers surpassing 200 lumens/watt in the laboratory and several products on the market today that offer 130 lumens/watt – which is ten times more efficient than incandescent lighting. The SSL Annex works to promote this invention of the Nobel Laureates through the development of simple tools to help government and consumers quickly and confidently identify which SSL products have the necessary efficiencies and quality levels to effectively reduce energy consumption of artificial illumination.

The SSL Annex works internationally in support policies and programmes at the national level, addressing some of the challenges associated with SSL. These include, for example, a lack of reliable, internationally-recognised test methods for measuring SSL quality and little information for policy makers on important quality parameters.

As SSL technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, manufacturers will continue to make improvements in efficacy, light quality, and operating life. In addition, manufacturing improvements and market competition are putting downward pressure on prices for SSL technology, making it less expensive relative to halogen, fluorescent and other light sources. This trend will benefit consumers and result in SSL penetrating many more lighting applications; however the speed of penetration will depend on the quality of the products consumers purchase. Thus the work of the SSL Annex to support governments in establishing policies and programmes that promote quality SSL products becomes even more important.

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