The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday that this year's Nobel Prize in physics will go to three Japan-born scientists — Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura — for inventing blue-light emitting diodes. We congratulate the three on winning the prize — a feat that brings the total number of Japanese and Japan-born scientists to have won the Nobel Prize in physics to 10.

The three accomplished their research into blue LEDs in the 1980s and '90s. Although red and green LEDs had been developed in the 1960s, scientists for many years could not create blue LEDs. With the advent of blue LEDs, it became possible to produce the three primary colors of light through LEDs and consequently LED-based white lamps. This has led to the widespread use of LEDs in today's society. The academy said, "Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps."

The key to success for Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura was focusing on a substance that other scientists had overlooked — gallium-nitride. While working for Matsushita Electric Industrial, the predecessor of Panasonic, Akasaki concentrated on GaN because it is sturdy and stable — a prerequisite for use in a vibratory environment such as motor vehicles. After moving to Nagoya University, Akasaki and Amano succeeded in producing transparent GaN crystal and in 1989 invented a blue LED.