Shuji Nakamura (born May 22, 1954) is a Japanese-born American physicist and inventor specializing in the field of semiconductor technology, professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and is regarded as the inventor of the blue LED, a major breakthrough in lighting technology. Together with Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, he is one of the three recipients of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources".
Nakamura graduated from the University of Tokushima in 1977 with a B.Eng. degree in electronic engineering, and obtained an M.Eng. degree in the same subject two years later, after which he joined the Nichia Corporation, also based in Tokushima. It was while working for Nichia that Nakamura invented the first high brightness gallium nitride (GaN) LED whose brilliant blue light, when partially converted to yellow by a phosphor coating, is the key to white LED lighting, which went into production in 1993.
Previously, J. I. Pankove and co-workers at RCA put in considerable effort, but did not manage to make a marketable GaN LED in the 1960s. The principal problem was the difficulty of making strongly p-type GaN. Nakamura drew on the work of another Japanese group led by Professor Isamu Akasaki, who published their method to make strongly p-type GaN by electron-beam irradiation of magnesium-doped GaN. However, this method was not suitable for mass production and its physics were not well understood. Nakamura managed to develop a thermal annealing method which was much more suitable for mass production. In addition, he and his co-workers worked out the physics and pointed out the culprit was hydrogen, which passivated acceptors in GaN.
At the time, many considered creating a GaN LED too difficult to produce, therefore Nakamura was fortunate that the founder of Nichia, Nobuo Ogawa (1912–2002) was initially willing to support his GaN project. However the company eventually ordered him to suspend work on GaN, claiming it was consuming too much time and money. Nakamura continued to develop the blue LED on his own and in 1993 succeeded in making the device...
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