Dr. Shuji Nakamura
Dr. Shuji Nakamura Draper Prize
Professor of Materials and Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara
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  • Draper
Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering
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Shuji Nakamura started research on blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) using group III nitride materials in 1989, and in 1993 and 1995 he developed the first group III nitride–based blue/green LEDs and violet laser diodes (LDs). His development of nitride-based semiconductors represents one of the most important achievements in the materials science of semiconductors in the last 30 years. Specifically, the discovery of p-type doping in gallium nitride (GaN), and efficient InGaN double heterostructure LED which were the key enabler of high brightness blue, green, and white LEDs and blue LDs which have enabled energy-efficient LED lighting and displays.

Nakamura discovered that p-type GaN films could be obtained by doping GaN with magnesium (Mg) coupled with successive post-thermal annealing in nitrogen at temperatures above 400°C. He also developed InGaN films of the highest crystal quality, which enabled the realization of bright blue double heterostructure light-emitting devices. These achievements have resulted in great benefits through their use in devices for energy-efficient solid state lighting, displays, medicine, and the next generation of Blu-ray optical storage. There is general agreement among scientists that Nakamura’s inventions are so reliable and energy efficient that they are destined to replace Thomas Edison’s light bulb and save the world billions of dollars in energy costs.

Nakamura has received numerous awards for his work—the Nishina Memorial Award (1996), Materials Research Society Medal Award (1997), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Jack A. Morton Award (1998, with Isamu Akasaki), British Rank Prize (1998), Benjamin Franklin Medal (2002), Millennium Technology Prize (2006), Czochralski Award (2007), Prince of Asturias Award for Technical Scientific Research (2008), Harvey Award (2009), and Technology and Engineering Emmy Award (2012) awarded by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering in 2003. He is the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics for the invention of efficient blue LEDs, which enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources. He received Japan’s Order of Culture Award on November 3, 2014.

He holds more than 200 US patents and over 300 Japanese patents, and has published over 550 papers. Since 2000 he has been a professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also research director of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center and Cree Chair in Solid State Lighting and Displays. In his early career he worked at Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd. in 1979 and in 1988 he spent a year at the University of Florida as a visiting research associate.

He was born on May 22, 1954, in Ehime, Japan. He earned BE, MS, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Tokushima in 1977, 1979, and 1994, respectively.

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  • Draper
  • 2015
  • For the invention, development, and commercialization of materials and processes for light-emitting diodes (LEDs).