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Shuji Nakamura helped transform lighting with blue LED 

Physics Nobel Shuji Nakamura

A Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped pioneer the energy-saving LED light bulb presented a public lecture August 29 in an event organized by Rutgers University.

Shuji Nakamura, who shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, spoke about the past, present, and future of lighting in a lecture titled: “From Edison Lightbulb to Blue LED Lighting.”

The event, hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, School of Arts and Sciences, was held at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.

“We in the Rutgers physics community were thrilled to host Nobel Laureate Shuji Nakamura,” said Physics Chair Bob Bartynski. “It is the blue LED that sparked the revolution in lighting that we find in our homes and our communities today. To have one the pioneers of LED presenting a lecture in the state that produced the Edison lightbulb provided a rare opportunity to explore two breakthroughs that have changed how we live our lives."

Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shared the Nobel with Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano for their work in the early 1990s developing blue LED (light emitting diodes) that made it possible to develop the modern LED lightbulb, which is more efficient and gives off far less heat than incandescent bulbs.

“Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement on

The U.S. Department of Energy agreed.

“The widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States,” the department said on its website. “By 2027, widespread use of LEDs could save the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today's electricity prices.”

The public lecture focused on the LED breakthrough as well as as the broader history of innovations in lighting. 

“It was a wonderful opportunity to show how physics and fundamental science connect to our day-to-day lives,” said Seongshik Oh, a physics professor and one of the event organizers. 

The lecture was sponsored by the following Rutgers units: School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and The Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology. 

 Nakamura also delivered opening remarks at a major academic conference sponsored by Rutgers and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The conference, "Quantum Materials Synthesis: Grand Challenges and Opportunities.



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