Shuji Nakamura: The Man Who Gave Us The Blue LED Despite All Odds

With the invention of the first LED featuring a red color, it seemed only a matter of time before LEDs would appear with other colors. Indeed, soon green and other colors joined the LED revolution, but not blue. Although some dim prototypes existed, none of them were practical enough to be considered for commercialization. The subject of a recent [Veritasium] video, the core of the problem was that finding a material with the right bandgap and other desirable properties remained elusive. It was in this situation that at the tail end of the 1980s a young engineer at Nichia in Japan found himself pursuing a solution to this conundrum.

Although Nichia was struggling at the time due to the competition in the semiconductor market, its president was not afraid to take a gamble on a promise, which is why this young engineer – [Shuji Nakamura] – got permission to try his wits at the problem. This included a year long study trip to Florida to learn the ins and outs of a new technology called metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD, also metalorganic vapor-phase epitaxy). Once back in Japan, he got access to a new MOCVD machine at Nichia, which he quickly got around to heavily modifying into the now well-known two-flow reactor version which improves the yield.

Continue reading “Shuji Nakamura: The Man Who Gave Us The Blue LED Despite All Odds”

We Ruined Status LEDs; Here’s Why That Needs To Change

Ah, the humble status LED. Just about every piece of home electronics, every circuit module, and anything else that draws current seems to have one. In the days of yore, a humble indicator gave a subtle glow from behind a panel, and this was fine. Then the 1990s happened, and everything got much much worse.

It’s Not The Technology, It’s How You Use It

With great brightness, comes great responsibility.

The 1990s brought us much good: Nirvana, Linux, and of course the blue LED. Much like “Teen Spirit”, the latter quickly fell into overuse: the technology rapidly became the sigil of all that was new and great, much to the ocular pain of the buying public.

This decision ranks up there for stupidity with other such questionable choices as hiring a rental car at the airport, or invading Russia in the winter. A status LED, most would agree, is there to indicate status. It need only deliver enough light to be seen when observed by a querying eye. What it need not do is glow with the intensity of a dying star, or illuminate an entire room for that matter. But, in the desperate attempts of product designers to appear on the cutting edge, the new, brighter LED triumphed over all in these applications. Continue reading “We Ruined Status LEDs; Here’s Why That Needs To Change”