• Kyodo


The three Japan-born physicists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics for inventing energy-efficient blue light-emitting diodes received their prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday.

The three are Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was born in Japan and later acquired U.S. citizenship, Isamu Akasaki, a professor at Meijo University in the city of Nagoya, and Hiroshi Amano, a professor at Nagoya University.

Nakamura, 60, Akasaki, 85, and Amano, 54, were handed their medals and diplomas by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf.

In comments given before the award was conferred, a Nobel selection committee noted that the three had “succeeded where all others had given up.”

“After several years of hard work . . . with great persistence, skills and perhaps a bit of luck, they were able to produce fine gallium nitride crystals and give them the properties needed for efficient light emission,” the committee said, noting that the trio had performed more than 2,000 experiments.

Speaking after the ceremony, Nakamura appeared relieved, saying “It’s finally over,” while Amano admitted having felt “terribly nervous” at the prospect of receiving the prize. “It has been a long journey,” Akasaki added.

The winners will share the 8 million Swedish kronor (about $1.07 million) in prize money equally.

Nobel physics laureate Isamu Akasaki (center) bows after receiving his prize during the award ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday. | REUTERS
Nobel physics laureate Isamu Akasaki (center) bows after receiving his prize during the award ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday. | REUTERS

Two days before the ceremony in the Swedish capital, the three gave lectures about their invention — which helped pave the way for the development of longer-lasting and more energy-efficient lighting for use in various applications including giant display screens and traffic lights — at Stockholm University.

The awards for Akasaki, Amano, and Nakamura bring the total number of Japanese and Japanese-born recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics to 10.

Prior to this year, the last Japanese to win a Nobel Prize was scientist Shinya Yamanaka, a 52-year-old Kyoto University professor, who in 2012 shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with John Gurdon of Britain.

The overall number of Japanese and Japanese-born Nobel award winners now stands at 22.

In a previous role as professor at Nagoya University, Akasaki worked with Amano to produce gallium nitride crystals, and in 1989 the pair created the world’s first blue LED.

Nakamura, while working at Nichia Corp., a company based in Tokushima Prefecture, independently succeeded in commercializing blue LEDs in 1993.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.