Biography:Shuji Nakamura

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Short description: Inventor of the blue LED, 2014 Nobel laureate in Physics
Shuji Nakamura

Shuji Nakamura.jpg
Shuji Nakamura in 2015, with his invented blue LED
Born (1954-05-22) 22 May 1954 (age 69)
Ikata, Ehime, Japan
CitizenshipJapan (until 2005)
United States (since 2005)[3][4]
Alma materUniversity of Tokushima
Known forBlue and white LEDs
AwardsMillennium Technology Prize (2006)
Harvey Prize (2009)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2014)
Global Energy Prize (2015)
National Inventors Hall of Fame (2015)
Mountbatten Medal (2017)
Zayed Future Energy Prize (2018)
Scientific career
FieldsElectronics engineering
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Shuji Nakamura (中村 修二, Nakamura Shūji, born May 22, 1954) is a Japanese-born American electronic engineer and inventor specializing in the field of semiconductor technology, professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB),[5] and is regarded as the inventor of the blue LED, a major breakthrough in lighting technology.[6]

Together with Isamu 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, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources". In 2015, his input into commercialization and development of energy-efficient white LED lighting technology was recognized by the Global Energy Prize. In 2021, Nakamura, along with Akasaki, Nick Holonyak, M. George Craford and Russell D. Dupuis were awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering "for the creation and development of LED lighting, which forms the basis of all solid state lighting technology".[7]


Nakamura graduated from the University of Tokushima in 1977 with a B.Eng. degree in electronic engineering, and obtained an M.Eng. degree in the same subject two years later, after which he joined the Nichia Corporation, also based in Tokushima. It was while working for Nichia that Nakamura invented the method for producing the first commercial high brightness gallium nitride (GaN) LED whose brilliant blue light, when partially converted to yellow by a phosphor coating, is the key to white LED lighting, which went into production in 1993.

Previously, J. I. Pankove and co-workers at RCA put in considerable effort, but did not manage to make a marketable GaN LED in the 1960s. The principal problem was the difficulty of making strongly p-type GaN.[8] Nakamura drew on the work of another Japanese group led by Professor Isamu Akasaki, who published their method to make strongly p-type GaN by electron-beam irradiation of magnesium-doped GaN; however, this method was not suitable for mass production. Nakamura managed to develop a thermal annealing method which was much more suitable for mass production.[9] In addition, he and his co-workers worked out the physics and pointed out the culprit was hydrogen, which passivated acceptors in GaN.[10]

At the time, many considered creating a GaN LED too difficult to produce; therefore, Nakamura was fortunate that the founder of Nichia, Nobuo Ogawa [ja](1912–2002), was willing to support and fund his GaN project.[11][12] However, the senior Ogawa ceded the presidency to his son-in-law Eiji Ogawa (in 1989), and the company under Eiji's direction ordered him to suspend work on GaN, claiming it was consuming too much time and money.[13][14] Nakamura continued to develop the blue LED on his own and in 1993 succeeded in making the device.[15][14]

Despite these circumstances, once Nakamura succeeded in creating a commercially viable prototype, 3 orders of magnitude (1000 times) brighter than previously successful blue LEDs, Nichia pursued developing the marketable product.[11][16] The company's gross receipt surged from just over ¥20 billion yen (≈US$200 million) in 1993 to ¥80 billion (≈US$800 million) by 2001, 60 percent of which was accounted for by sales of blue LED products.[14] The company's workforce doubled between 1994 and 1999 from 640 to 1300 employees.[17]

Nakamura was awarded a D.Eng. degree from the University of Tokushima in 1994. He left Nichia Corporation in 1999 and took a position as a professor of engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In 2001, Nakamura sued his former employer Nichia over his bonus for the discovery as a part of a series of lawsuits between Nichia and Nakamura with Nichia's US competitor Cree Inc.; they agreed in 2000 to jointly sue Nichia at the expense of Cree and Nakamura received stock options from Cree. Nakamura claimed that he received only Template:JP¥ (≈US$180) for his discovery of "404 patent," though Nichia's president Eiji Ogawa's side of the story was that he was shocked beyond belief that the court would award Nakamura ¥20 billion, and downplaying the significance of the "404 patent," opined that the company had adequately compensated him for the innovation through promotions and bonuses amounting to ¥62 million over 11 years and annual salary which was raised to ¥20 million by the time Nakamura quit Nichia.[18]

Nakamura sued for ¥2 billion (<US$20 million) as his fair share for the invention, and the district court awarded him ten times the amount, ¥20 billion (<US$200 million). However, Nichia appealed the award and the parties settled in 2005 for ¥840 million (≈US$8.1 million, less than 5% of the award amount), which was still the largest payment ever paid by a Japanese company to an employee for an invention,[19][20] an amount only enough to cover legal expenses incurred by Nakamura.[21]

Nakamura has also worked on green LEDs, and is responsible for creating the white LED and blue laser diodes used in Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs.[22]

Nakamura is a professor of Materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara.[23] In 2008, Nakamura, along with fellow UCSB professors Dr. Steven DenBaars and Dr. James Speck, founded Soraa, a developer of solid-state lighting technology built on pure gallium nitride substrates.[24] Nakamura holds 208 US utility patents as of May 5, 2020.[25]

In November 2022, Nakamura co-founded Blue Laser Fusion, a commercial fusion company, with Hiroaki Ohta, a former president of Tokyo-based drone maker ACSL.[26] In July 2023, Blue Laser Fusion raised $25 million from venture capital firm JAFCO Group and the Mirai Creation Fund, which is backed by Toyota Motor and other investors and managed by the SPARX Group.[26]


  • 2001 – Asahi Prize from the Japanese Newspaper, Asahi Shimbun
  • 2002 – Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics from the Franklin Institute.
  • 2006 – Finland 's Millennium Technology Prize for his continuing efforts to make cheaper and more efficient light sources.[27][28]
  • 2007 – nominee for the European Inventor Award awarded by the European Patent Office[29]
  • 2008 – Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research.[30]
  • 2008 – Honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
  • 2008 – Holst Memorial Lecture Award [Eindhoven University of Technology and Royal Philips Research, the Netherlands].
  • 2009 – Harvey Prize[31] from the Technion in Israel.
  • 2012 – Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Law Association (SVIPLA) Inventor of the Year.[32]
  • 2014 – Nobel Prize in Physics together with Prof. Isamu Akasaki and Prof. Hiroshi Amano for inventing blue light-emitting diodes.[33]
  • 2015 – Global Energy Prize for the invention, commercialization and development of energy-efficient white LED lighting technology [34]
  • 2015 – Asia Game Changer Award[35]
  • 2016 - Outstanding Achievement in Science & Technology at The Asian Awards[36]
  • 2017 – Mountbatten Medal[37]
  • 2018 – Zayed Future Energy Prize[38]
  • 2021 – Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering[39]
  • 2022 – Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[40]

See also

  • List of Japanese Nobel laureates


  1. "中村教授「物理学賞での受賞には驚いた」 ノーベル賞". The Nikkei (Nikkei Inc.). October 2014. 
  2. Shuji received American citizenship in 2000. Japan does not recognize dual nationality.
  3. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in ja). Asahi Shimbun Digital. 18 October 2014. 
  4. "Nōberu shō no Nakamura Shūji-shi, Amerika no shiminken wo totta riyū wo kataru" (in ja). withnews. 18 October 2014. "2005、6年ごろに(米国市民権を)取ったんですよ [acquired (U.S. citizenship) in 2005 or 2006]" 
  5. "Shuji Nakamura". University of California. 
  6. "Nobel laureate fought the odds to make history". Pacific Coast Business Times. 10 October 2014. 
  7. "LED Lighting | Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering". 
  8. Johnstone (2007), pp. 90–93.
  9. Johnstone (2007), p. 114.
  10. Johnstone (2007), pp. 114, 116.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Normile, Dennis (21 March 1997). "Staying Off Beaten Track Puts LED Researcher a Step Ahead". Science. New Series 275 (5307): 1734–1735. doi:10.1126/science.275.5307.1734. 
  12. Johnstone (2007), p. 68.
  13. Johnstone (2007), pp. 103–104.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Court dismisses inventor's patent claim but will consider reward". The Japan Times. September 20, 2002. 
  15. Johnstone (2007), pp. 112–120.
  16. Johnstone (2007), pp. 120–121.
  17. Johnstone (2007), p. 122.
  18. "Nichia kagaku kōgyō no Ogawa Eiji shi: soshō sōdō no shinjitsu wo ima koso akiraka ni suru" (in ja). Nikkei Tech-on. April 2004. 
  19. Zaun, Todd (January 12, 2005). "Japanese Company to Pay Ex-Employee $8.1 Million for Invention". The New York Times. 
  20. Johnstone (2007), pp. 233–237.
  21. Robert Matthews. (3 April 2007). "Book Review: The man who had the world's brightest idea". Financial Times. 
  22. Richard Harris (June 15, 2006). "Work in Colored Lights Nets Millennium Prize". All Things Considered. 
  23. "Shuji Nakamura". Solid State Lighting & Energy Center. 
  24. "About". Soraa Inc.. 
  25. Patents of Shuji Nakamura
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Nuclear fusion race draws in Nobel-winning LED pioneer.". July 23, 2023. 
  27. "Winner 2006 - Shuji Nakamura, Blue and white LEDs". Technology Academy Finland. 
  28. "Top prize for 'light' inventor". BBC News. September 8, 2006. 
  29. Office, European Patent. "Shuji Nakamura (Japan)". 
  30. Prince of Asturias Awards for Technical and Scientific Research[yes|permanent dead link|dead link}}].
  31. "Harvey Prize". 
  32. "SVIPLA Presents Inventor of the Year - Shuji Nakamura, Ph.D.". Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Law Association. 
  33. "The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics - Press Release". Nobel Media AB 2014. 
  34. "Laureates". 
  35. "Chanda Kochhar among three Indians get Asia Game Changer awards". The Economic Times. September 16, 2015. 
  36. "The Winners at The Asian Awards 2016". 
  37. "Mountbatten Medal – 2017 Winner". 
  38. Sankar, Anjana. "Top Zayed Energy prize awarded to LED light inventor". 
  39. "LED Lighting Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering". 13 December 2021. 
  40. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement. 

Further reading

  • Shuji Nakamura, Gerhard Fasol, Stephen J. Pearton, The Blue Laser Diode : The Complete Story, Springer; 2nd edition, October 2, 2000, (ISBN:3-540-66505-6)

External links

Preceded by
Tim Berners-Lee
Millennium Technology Prize winner
2006 (for blue and white LEDs)
Succeeded by
Robert S. Langer