LED lighting inventors wins £1m QEPrize

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The 2021 Queen Elizabeth Prize (QEPrize) is awarded for the creation and development of solid state LED lighting.

Isamu Akasaki, Shuji Nakamura, Nick Holonyak Jr, M. George Craford and Russell Dupuis are recognised for the global impact of LED solid state lighting and the contribution it has made to reducing energy consumption and addressing climate change.

LED lighting can be found everywhere from digital displays and computer screens to handheld laser pointers, automotive headlights and traffic lights.

Visible LEDs are now a global industry predicted to be worth over $108 billion by 2025 through low cost, high efficiency lighting. LED lighting is 75% more energy efficient than traditional incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. They also last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and the large-scale use reduces the energy demand required to cool buildings.

“Engineering is imperative to solving human problems. All over the world, everyone knows the QEPrize. Most importantly, this is a team prize. I was able to do what I did in the 1980s, because of what had come before. When I was modifying reactors every morning and every afternoon continuously for a year and a half, I never thought it would be so successful,” said Professor Shuji Nakamura, professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). With 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.

“This is a really special moment for me. The QEPrize is so prestigious and it is spectacular to receive recognition from The Royal Family. It is a career highlight that is impossible to beat. Engineering is incredible, and I am proud to part of something that has made such a big impact on the world,” said Dr George Craford, inventor of the yellow LED and former CTO of Lumileds Lighting at HP, which became Philips Lumileds Lighting and is now Lumileds.

The winners will be formally honoured at a ceremony later this year and will receive the £1 million prize and a trophy specailly designed for the 2021 prize. The prize will also be awarded annually in future, rather than every two years.

“At the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, we recognise that a new age of innovation demands a new approach. As engineering and its place in society keep evolving, so too must the Prize. We want to expand our horizons, and do more to recognise the diversity of contemporary engineering,” said Lord Browne, chair of the judging panel..

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