My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics Blue LED's are excellent Flourescent and Incandescent Replacements

Thursday, June 4, 2015

2014 Nobel Prize for Physics Blue LED's are excellent Flourescent and Incandescent Replacements

“I am troubled by some who say if the government funds research, it should only be...directed towards things that have a practical application...You can trace many advances in science and engineering that have obvious and immediate practical applications to a foundation of basic science”

 American Institute of Physics CEO H. Frederick Dylla commenting on the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the Blue LED

The winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics is usually give to scientific discoveries that are usually stuff we've never heard about, such as the 2013 Nobel Prize for Higgs Boson by Dr. Francois Englert and Dr. Peter Higgs as explained in my blog article entitled “Dr. Francois Englert and Dr. Peter Higgs awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the Higgs Boson - Congratulations in order for the Real Big Bang Theory”.  

Past prizes have been given for concepts such as Bose-Einstein condensates, superconductors and superfluids.

But the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics, which was awarded on Tuesday October 7th 2014, went to the three (3) inventors of the Blue LED (Light Emitting Diode) as reported in the article “Efficient, useful Blue-light LED draws Nobel Prize in Physics”, published October 7, 2014 by Stephen Shankland, CNET News

The three (3) inventors that will share the US$1.1 million for the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics were:

1.      Professor Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University and Nagoya University
2.      Professor Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University
3.      Professor Shuji Nakamura of University of California in Santa Barbara

Professor Isamu Akasaki and Professor Hiroshi Amano are Japanese Citizens while Professor Shuji Nakamura is an American. Good to note here they almost made nothing from their invention.

Nichia Chemical Corporation only paid Shuji Nakamura, who was working for them at the time, US$200 for his invention. He eventually sued them and won a 2005 lawsuit, receiving some US$8 million in unpaid royalties from the use of his invention as reported in the article “Japanese Company to Pay Ex-Employee $8.1 Million for Invention”, published January 12 2005 by Todd Zaunjan, New York Times.

In fact, they still receive royalties for the use of their Blue LED invention to this day.

So aside from the fact they're really all loaded Asians, why would this invention be worthy of a Nobel Prize in Physics, especially given the pedigree of the Nobel Prizes awarded in the past?

It’s all a matter of Black and White!

2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for Blue LED's - Why LED's are such a big Deal for super-efficient lighting

In the colour spectrum, Red, Green and Blue combine to give White light.

LED's have proved to be very versatile, used in everything from HDTV, Laptop and Computer Screens to replacements for Streetlights even here in Jamaica along the Palisados Road as noted in my blog article entitled “200 Palisados Streetlights upgrade to LED LightBulbs by CMI, JPS - How 93,000 Streetlights and Traffic Lights can go off-Grid using Solar and Wind Power”.

The advantages of using LED's are clear when compared to Incandescent Bulbs or Fluorescent Bulbs. Incandescent Bulbs, an invention of Thomas Edison's, are merely a tungsten filament glowing inside of a vacuum filled with inert Nitrogen, produces mostly heat and little light.

Fluorescent Bulbs are four (4) times more efficient, using Argon or Neon Gas excited until lower energy electrons go to higher orbital levels and fall back, releasing UV (Ultravoilet) light in the process.

But Fluorescent light Bulbs usually use phosphorus and mercury to convert the resulting UV (Ultravoilet) light to visible light and both are toxic as noted in my blog article entitled “GOJ launches JA$200 million Recycle Now Jamaica Project to Recycle PETE Plastic Waste - JEEP finally get self-sustaining Engine in small Step towards Telecom Providers Recycling Electronic Waste”.  

LED's on the other hand are twenty (20) times more efficient than Fluorescent Bulbs and Third World countries that can harvest Rare Earth metals required to make LED’s can actually manufacture them as noted in my blog article entitled “No news on progress of the Rare Earth Pilot Plant at JBI - Cuba-Jamaica CFL Project Heralds manufacturing of LED's, Li-Ion Batteries and Sapphire Screens in Jamaica” .

Aside from being such efficient converters of electricity to Light with little heat, they work in DC (Direct Current) not AC (Alternating Current), are lightweight and compact and last for incredibly long timespans, often as long as twenty (20) year, assuming three (3) hours of usage per day!

White Light and their relation to Blue LED's - Why Blue LED's are such a big Deal

But while Red and Green LED's had been developed earlier on in the 60's it was some thirty (30) years before Blue LED's made their debut in the 1990's. Their “invention” if you wish to call it that, was due to the work of the previously mentioned trio.

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano worked together in Japan while collaborating with Shuji Nakamura, who at the time was in the US of A working at Nichia Chemical Corporation.

The Fabrication techniques for Semiconductors at the time in the 60’s just weren’t sophisticated enough to make Blue LED's. The three (3) collaborators worked over a decade to develop and perfect a practical method of mass producing the Blue LED.

Once developed, they found almost immediate practical application. Aside from the use to make Blue lighting, it was their combination with Red and Green LED's that enabled the production of White light in Laptops, HDTV's and Tablet screens, closely mimicking White light from the Sun. This is what made the Blue LED so famous.

Thus the invention of the Blue LED is what made it possible to produce White Light LED Bulbs such as the LG Electronics Internet Controlled LED Light Bulb as described in my blog article entitled “LG Electronics Internet Controlled LED Light Bulb - Li-Fi’s Standardization of Alexander Graham Bell’s First Invention powered by Powerline AV 500 and Homeplug AV”. 

Alternately, exciting phosphors to produce Red and Green and recombining them to produce White light meant that Blue LED's made HDTV thinner and more compact, needing less LED’s to act as backlight for a LCD Screen as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “Samsung introduces SUHD running Tizen OS as UHD Alliance Grows with Panasonic Partnership”.

These White LED's are used in a variety of very obvious applications:

1.      Streetlights
2.      Traffic lights
3.      Flashlights
4.      Vehicle headlights

With the price on LED’s slowly coming down, White LED's will soon replaced Fluorescent and Incandescent Bulbs. The BSJ (Bureau of Standard Jamaica) is gearing up to ban Incandescent and Fluorescent light Bulbs in the coming years as predicted in my blog article entitled “BSJ's Energy Standards for Imported Electrical Appliances - Why a Ban on Light Bulbs may lead to Chinese Manufacturing in Jamaica”.

2014 Nobel Prize for Physics is therefore a rare example of how a practical invention can have a direct impact on our daily lives in ways we never could have imagined. But this doesn’t make other less practical discoveries unworthy of the award.

It's just that 2014 was the Year for the inventors of the Blue LED to have their time in the Bright lights of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics, no doubt lit by White LED’s.

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