Shuji Nakamura, a UCSB engineering professor and pioneer in the lighting field, was recently distinguished as one of 40 pioneers of the “green revolution.”

Shuji Nakamura

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, CBS News recognized the top 40 most historically influential individuals in the environmental movement. Nakamura, who invented the white L.E.D., ranked number 21 on the list, which includes such names as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Rudolf Diesel and Al Gore.

Those recognized by CBS have either contributed significantly to science, developed new business models or implemented policies on renewable energy and more efficient uses of the planet’s resources.

Nakamura said he is thrilled by the recognition and is pleased to know that his ingenuity has helped to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Global warming is a serious issue — people are desperately trying to find ways to reduce energy consumption,” Nakamura said. “President Obama, for instance, is working on potentially building nuclear power plants, but this will take a long time. The easiest and most efficient way to contribute in reducing energy consumption is to take advantage of the technology that is currently available, such as L.E.D. lighting, which helps us save up to 40 percent of energy consumption.”

“The ultimate goal is to reach 100 percent,” Nakamura added.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang said that professor Nakamura’s accomplishments are a tremendous source of pride and inspiration for the campus and have the potential to save billions in energy costs.

“His work has revolutionized the semiconductor industry and has applications to a broad range of interdisciplinary areas, from information and communication, to energy and the environment, to health care and life sciences,” Yang said in an e-mail. “The vision behind professor Nakamura’s inventions is to ultimately replace traditional incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs with solid state lighting, thereby dramatically reducing the world’s electric energy consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving billions of dollars in energy costs.”

A spot on CBS’s list is not the first accolade Nakamura has received, however. According to Yang, Nakamura has been called a “legend in his own time” by Popular Science and “the tamer of nature and successor to Edison” by Forbes magazine.

“We are proud to call him our colleague,” Yang said.

UCSB graduate student Siddha Pimputkar said Nakamura’s recognition is well-deserved, since the possibility of conceiving a white LED would not have been feasible without him.
“Nakamura’s name is recognized worldwide, specifically in Asia,” Pimputkar said. “Without a doubt, his accomplishments have had a profound impact on the Engineering Dept. at UCSB. The amount of money that he can bring in to the university is just incredible. As a result, this attracts among the best graduate students in the world, which generates more research in the field and creates more patents for papers, which in turn gives prestige to the university.”

Nakamura’s résumé includes such awards as the 2009 Harvey Prize from the Israel Institute of Technology, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research in 2008, Japan’s Takeda Award, The Economist’s Innovation Award and Finland’s Millennium Technology Prize in 2006.