The 2014 Nobel Prize for physics awarded on Oct. 7 to three physicists for their invention of blue light-emitting diodes (LED) led to a significant breakthrough and paved the way for the creation of white light—a cleaner, more energy-efficient and longer-lasting source of illumination that also has generated a multibillion-dollar market and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to IHS Technology (NYSE: IHS).
Following the invention of blue LEDs by Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, white light could finally be achieved—either through a combination with previously invented red and green LEDs; or as more commonly seen today, by adding a yellow phosphor layer over the blue LED. Without blue diodes, white light could not be produced.
Since the trailblazing invention of blue LEDs in the early 1990s the LED component market has flourished, reaching an estimated $17.7 billion in 2013 and supporting more than 250,000 jobs in the industry, according to IHS figures. The overall market would be even bigger if it included all the LED downstream markets, such as lighting, displays, signage, consumer electronics and even Christmas lights.
William Rhodes, research manager for LEDs and lighting at IHS, said that the invention of Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura was a game-changer. “Before the invention of blue LEDs, the market was mainly focused on indicator lights in toys, industrial and automotive applications,” Rhodes observed. “Since then the market has evolved with more than 90 percent of all displays sold this year backlit by LEDs, and LEDs will account for 32 percent of all bulb revenues in 2014.”
The LED lighting market is poised for strong growth in the next five to 10 years with energy-hungry technologies being systematically banned across the world. In particular, consumers and business owners alike are increasingly looking for energy-efficient lighting for their homes and offices to replace energy hogs such as incandescent bulbs, which can use as much as six times the amount of electricity compared to LEDs.
All of this would not be possible without the ground-breaking work of this year’s Nobel Prize physics winners Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura, Rhodes said.