Engineering professor and lighting expert Shuji Nakamura has been recognized as one of the recipients of the 2009 Harvey Prize.
The prize, which is awarded by the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology — to two individuals every year for breakthroughs in the field of science and technology, includes a $75,000 stipend for each winner. David Baulcombe, a botanist and researcher at the University of Cambridge in England, has been named as the second beneficiary.
According to a press release, Nakamura, who is also the co-director of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center, was chosen because of his innovative research that led to the first semiconductor laser emitting blue emissions, therefore increasing the density of optical storage devices.
“His work on nitride-containing light emitting diodes led eventually to the white light LED, which totally revolutionized lighting concepts,” the press release said. “These white light LEDs will dominate light-producing systems, as they are significantly more efficient than conventional incandescent light bulbs, ensuring huge reductions in energy consumption.”
Nakamura said he was not only thrilled with the award, but the implication of progress that is behind it.
“Global warming is a big issue,” Nakamura said. “All over the country, people want to reduce energy consumption. Using LED, we can reduce energy consumption by 40 percent, and LED lighting consumes one-tenth the energy incandescent lighting does.”
Moreover Siddha Pimputkar, a fourth-year graduate student who works under Nakamura to create bulk crystal growth — the next step toward high-power LED — said his mentor has fundamentally changed the energy landscape in lighting.
“Without his unique contribution to the field, we wouldn’t have the efficiency we’ve reached today,” Pimputkar said.
Although initially unaware of the award, Roy Chung, a fourth-year graduate student of Nakamura’s, said he wasn’t surprised because Nakamura already has numerous honors under his belt.
“He is a great professor,” Chung said. “The way he supports his students is based on how he achieved his own successes. Back then [before blue LED was invented], he was working by himself, because no one else believed [his approach] could work. It doesn’t matter if others try to bring you down. That’s his philosophy.”
Nakamura’s other awards include Finland’s Millennium Technology Prize in 2006, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research in 2008, Japan’s Takeda Award and The Economist’s Innovation Award.
Nakamura will receive his prize on Feb. 17 at a ceremony on the Technion campus in Haifa, Israel.