An interview with Isamu Akasaki

Isamu AkasakiOn June 8, 2016, Yue Kuo, an ECS fellow and vice president of The Electrochemical Society, traveled to the Akasaki Institute at Nagoya University in Japan to talk with Isamu Akasaki, a Nobel Prize winner and ECS life member.

Professor Akasaki is a materials scientist specializing in semiconductor science and technology. He is a pioneer of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which have enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources. He shares the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics with Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for this work. Prior to their groundbreaking work, scientists had produced LEDs that emitted red or yellow-green light, but not blue. Blue had been thought impossible or impractical to make. Blue LEDs became commercially available in 1994.

The new combination of blue, green, and red LEDs produces white light, and blue LEDs coated with YAG:Ce yellow phosphor appear white to the eye and can be developed for much less energy than that from incandescent and fluorescent lamps, which contain toxic mercury. Prof. Akasaki’s work helped lead to the development of blue semiconductor lasers, which proved useful for high-capacity optical-media devices such as Blu-ray disc players.

What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation between Yue Kuo and Isamu Akasaki, which they had in English.

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