Shuji Nakamura was born on May 22, 1954 in Ehime, Japan. He obtained B.E., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tokushima, Japan in 1977, 1979, and 1994, respectively. He joined Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd in 1979. In 1988, he spent a year at the University of Florida as a visiting research associate. In 1989, he started the research of blue LEDs using group-III nitride materials. In 1993 and 1995, he developed the first group-III nitride-based blue/green LEDs. He also developed the first group-III nitride-based violet laser diodes (LDs) in 1995.
Shuji Nakamura was appointed professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2000.
Professor Nakamura’s innovation allowed LED manufacturers to produce LEDs with three primary colors (red, green and blue) which could be mixed to express 16 million colors. Perhaps most importantly, the new technology was leveraged by the LED industry to begin commercial production of white LEDs, the semiconductor ecological light source.
The development of nitride based semiconductors, by Prof. Nakamura, represents one of the most important achievements in the materials science of semiconductors in the last 30 years. Specifically, the discovery of p-type doping in Gallium Nitride (GaN) and the development of blue, green, and white light emitting diodes (LEDs) and blue laser diodes (LDs) has enabled energy efficient lighting and displays.
Prof. Nakamura discovered that p-type GaN films could be obtained by doping GaN with Mg, with successive post-thermal annealing in nitrogen ambient at temperatures above 400°C. Prof. Nakamura also developed InGaN films of the highest crystal quality which enabled the realization of bright blue double heterostructure light emitting devices. These achievements have resulted in great benefits to mankind through their use in devices for energy efficient solid-state lighting, displays, medicine, and the next generation of Blu-Ray optical storage.
The general conclusion among scientists at this time is that Prof. Nakamura’s inventions are so reliable and energy efficient that they are destined to replace Thomas Edison’s light bulb and save the world billions of dollars in energy costs.
In 2006, Nakamura won the Millennium Technology Prize of Finland, known as “the Nobel Prize in the technology field.” the Nishina Memorial Award (1996), MRS Medal Award (1997), IEEE Jack A. Morton Award, the British Rank Prize (1998), In 2004, he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in the engineering segment, previously conferred upon Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. In addition, he won The Economist's Innovation Award, given to only six scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to innovation of technology. He has also received the Czochralski Award (2007), the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical Scientific Research (2008) and in 2009, he received the Harvey Prize from the Technion in Israel.
He holds more than 100 patents and has published more than 400 papers in his field.
As a professor in the Material Department and co-director of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center (SSLEC) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Prof. Nakamura is leading the effort to develop the next-generation LED and Laser Diode (LD) based on the blue LED, as well as a GaN-based solar cell.