Let it Shine

by Ethan Stewart

Responsible for helping multiply CDs’ memory capacity by five,
creating streetlamps that don’t attract bugs, and working to bring
brighter and more energy-efficient light bulbs to the world, UCSB
professor Shuji Nakamura (pictured) was recognized last week by the
international scientific community with the 2006 Millennium
Technology Award. Nakamura — who has been a Gaucho professor of
electrical and computer engineering since 2000 — was given the
“Holy Grail of semi-conductor research” for his work with light
emitting diodes (LED) and the blue laser diode that reads CDs and
DVDs. The biennial award — which includes a $1.3 million cash prize
— recognizes technological achievements designed to promote
sustainable development and a higher quality of life, both of which
Nakamura hopes to achieve with LED light bulbs. LEDs last 100 times
longer, emit less heat, and use less energy than traditional
incandescent bulbs. Although it has been speculated that a switch
to LED bulbs would save American households as much as $35 billion
per year in energy bills, they have been kept out of the mainstream
by a price tag that is often five times as much as “regular” bulbs.
Looking to help spread the LED gospel, Nakamura pledged at last
Thursday’s press conference to donate a sizable hunk of the cash
prize to nonprofits such as Light up the World and Engineers
Without Borders.

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