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Awards continue to pile up for the UCSB professor behind LED lighting

Flickr member Dave Nakayama

The international awards are piling up for the UC Santa Barbara professor who helped create energy-saving LED lighting.

UCSB's Shuji Nakamura was named this year's Global Energy Prize Laureate, announced Thursday in Moscow. Nakamura is being recognized for his lighting invention that's helping to save billions of dollars in energy costs worldwide.

LEDs had been around for decades, but not the white light versions that are currently replacing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

In the 1960s, red and green LEDs had been invented, but scientists were having trouble coming up with the blue version needed to produce white light. Nakamura helped fix that problem in the 1990s.

“I am so pleased that the Global Energy Prize committee has recognized my breakthrough work on InGaN LEDs, which has led to energy-efficient white LED lighting,” said Nakamura.

UCSB said in a press release that this award is the latest in a stream of honors for Nakamura:

  • Nishina Memorial Award (1996)
  • Materials Research Society Medal (1997)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Jack A. Morton Award, the British Rank Prize (1998)
  • Benjamin Franklin Medal (2002), the Millennium Technology Prize (2006)
  • Czochralski Award (2007)
  • Prince of Asturias Award for Technical Scientific Research (2008)
  • The Harvey Award (2009)
  • Technology and the Engineering Emmy Award (2011)
  • LED Pioneer Award (2012)
  • Nobel Prize in Physics (2014)
  • Japan’s Order of Culture Medal (2014)
  • Charles Stark Draper Prize (2015)
  • Global Energy Prize Laureate (2015)

Nakamura is scheduled to deliver a public lecture on his journey to the invention of the blue LED next week. He will outline not only the technical challenges that accompanied his quest, but also the obstacles he faced professionally to accomplish what many around him said couldn’t be done.
The talk will feature live demonstrations onstage and an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.


  • Where: Campbell Hall, UCSB
  • When: Tuesday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.
  • This lecture is free and open to the public.