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2014年10月11日 (土)

ノーベル賞 世界変えた青い光を誇りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
We are proud that Japan’s bright blue light has changed the world
ノーベル賞 世界変えた青い光を誇りたい

The potential of Japan’s technological development has again been shown to the world.

On Tuesday, three Japanese scientists who succeeded in developing blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and putting the technology into practical use were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The three are Prof. Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University; Prof. Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University; and Prof. Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara. We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to them.

It had long been regarded as impossible to develop blue LEDs.

Akasaki came up with an idea to form a special crystal based on a substance called gallium nitride, thinking that the crystal would emit blue light. He conducted numerous experiments with Amano, who belonged to Akasaki’s lab at that time as a graduate student, and the two succeeded in developing blue LEDs in 1989.

The achievement completed the development of LEDs in green, red and blue — the three primary colors of light. It has become possible to form various colors by mixing the three colors.

However, one problem remained — finding a way to mass-produce blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura, who was working at a chemical company in Tokushima Prefecture, succeeded in developing a manufacturing process for blue LEDs, which paved the way for the spread of the light source.

We are proud that the entire development process — from idea to practical implementation — was done by Japanese scientists.

Improving quality of life

LEDs have become fundamental technology that underpins today’s information society. The light source is integral to the mass processing and transmission of information through computers. It is also used in various products around us, such as traffic lights, large-screen displays and camera flashes.

In addition, LED lamps are now replacing incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lights as a light source that has a longer life span while consuming less power. The technology is also useful in combating global warming.

There was a legal battle between Nakamura and the company he had belonged to over a patent regarding the manufacturing process. However, the fact that the three academics received the prestigious award at the same time suggests the Nobel committee concluded the three equally contributed to the scientific progress and the development of society.

There now have been 22 Japanese Nobel Prize laureates, with 19 of them coming from the field of natural science. This is proof of how well Japanese scholars excel in their creativity and technical capability.

One point of concern regarding everyday research activities in Japan is a lack of talent and a decline in competitive prowess, problems that are becoming increasingly serious. Young researchers have become reluctant to enter technological development fields as it takes time and hard effort to produce tangible results.

As for the number of research papers published in journals, which is regarded as a barometer of the vitality of research activities, Japan ranked second around 2000 but has now dropped to fifth, surpassed by China and other nations.

The news of three Japanese scientists winning the Nobel Prize should serve as great inspiration to young students who wish to enter scientific fields. We hope it will also help rejuvenate Japan’s manufacturing industry, which is now struggling under cutthroat international competition.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2014)Speech


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