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Isamu Akasaki, Persistent Optoelectronics Researcher, to Receive 2011 IEEE Edison Medal

Contributions Paved Way to Technology Behind Today’s Blue-Ray Disc Players and Lighting for Full-Color Displays  

10 August 2011 – Isamu Akasaki, a researcher who persistently pursued developing nitride-based materials suitable for producing blue and white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers that have led to today’s high-brightness display lighting and advanced entertainment devices, is being honored by IEEE with the 2011 IEEE Edison Medal. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association.

The medal, sponsored by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., recognizes Akasaki for seminal and pioneering contributions to the development of nitride-based semiconductor materials and optoelectronic devices, including visible wavelength LEDs and lasers. The medal will be presented on 20 August 2011 at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in San Francisco, Calif.

While red and yellow-green LEDs and infrared semiconductor lasers had already been realized as early as the 1960s, high-output blue light-emitting devices had yet to be seen. During the late 1960s, Akasaki began researching solutions to the roadblocks that had prevented realization of high-performance blue LEDs and lasers. When many researchers abandoned the challenge, Akasaki’s persistent efforts using gallium nitride materials paid off in the 1990s with pioneering developments that led to high-brightness blue, green and white LEDs and high-performance blue-violet semiconductor lasers. His work has influenced all subsequent developments on these types of LEDs and lasers and has enabled devices such as the blue-ray disc player, white illumination sources, solid-state full-color displays and has implications for using LEDs in general business and home lighting applications.

Akasaki’s first achievement important to the development of blue LEDs came in 1985 when he successfully grew high-quality single-crystal gallium nitride on sapphire substrates using a low-temperature buffer technology. His second achievement was in 1989 when he used low-energy electron beam irradiation for p-type doping of gallium nitride. These achievements made at Nagoya University were necessary for the further development of gallium nitride as the wide bandgap semiconductor system to enable the new light source. He then realized the first blue/ultraviolet gallium nitride LEDs.

During the 1990s, Akasaki achieved stimulated emission in the ultraviolet region with optical excitation from gallium nitride at room temperature, and electrically injected ultraviolet/purple-blue laser diodes.  His inventions opened up a new market for optoelectronics devices. Based on the royalties received from Akasaki’s patents, the Akasaki Institute at Nagoya University was founded in 2006. The Institute contains a gallery showing the history of blue LED research, development and applications; an office for research collaboration; and laboratories.

An IEEE Fellow, Akasaki is also a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a distinguished member of the Japan Society of Applied Physics (JSAP) and member of the Engineering Academy of Japan. His honors include the Japanese government’s Medal with Purple Ribbon, the IEEE Jack A. Morton Award, the International Organization for Crystal Growth’s Laudise Prize, the  JSAP Outstanding Achievement Award, the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology,  and he was selected as a Person of Cultural Merits by the Japanese government. He received his bachelor’s degree in science from Kyoto University, Japan, and his doctorate in   electronic engineering from Nagoya University, Japan. Akasaki is currently a professor with Meijo University’s Graduate School of Science and Technology and a Distinguished University Professor of Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.


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