LED Pioneers Awarded Draper Prize for Engineering

LEDs reduced U.S. CO2 emissions by an estimated 12 million tons in 2013, produce the greatest amount of light for the energy used, and have the longest lifetime of any lighting source available. In recognition of the significant benefit to society created by the initial development and commercialization of LED technologies 20 years ago, five pioneers will receive the $500,000 Draper Prize for Engineering.

“Great engineers imagine new things – and build them,” said Draper Laboratory President and CEO Kaigham J. Gabriel. “These LED pioneers created technologies that brought new light to our lives, spawning an industry that today boasts hundreds of thousands of jobs while making energy consumption more efficient.”

(Photo Credit: Draper Prize)

Isamu Akasaki; George Craford; Russell Dupuis; Nick Holonyak, Jr.; and Shuji Nakamura each made contributions critical to taking light-emitting diodes from laboratory concept to ubiquitous reality in smartphone screens, surgical lighting, agriculture and many other applications.

Holonyak created the first red LED in 1962. Craford invented the first yellow LED in 1972. He also 
developed processes for the first large-scale commercial production of red LEDs, and decades later contributed to the development of high-efficiency white LEDs.

Dupuis invented the process that is the basis of virtually all production of high-brightness LEDs, laser diodes, solar cells, and high-speed optoelectronic (light controlling) devices, in 1977.

Akasaki created the first blue LED in 1989, which enabled bright energy-saving white light sources by using Dupuis’ technology. Nakamura demonstrated the first high-brightness blue LED in 1994, which led to the development of Blu-ray™ technology.

Long-lasting white light used in LED display screens comes from mixing red, yellow and blue LEDs. According to industry analysts, LED lighting created a $17.7 billion global industry, while benefiting the environment with its high efficiency.

Draper established and endowed the prize to the National Academy of Engineering in 1988.

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