Nobel Laureate graces Monash University Malaysia

The second Sir John Monash Lecture series for 2017 continued on an upward momentum with 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Professor Shuji Nakamura who spoke on, 'The Invention of High Efficiency Blue LEDs and the Future of Solid State Lighting', at Monash University Malaysia on 6 April 2017. The event is held in partnership with the Jeffrey Cheah Distinguished Speakers Series.

Professor Khu Soon-Thiam, Head of Discipline (Civil Engineering), Monash University Malaysia provided the audience with a brief background on the Japanese professor in his welcome remarks.

“Professor Nakamura is an electronic engineer and an inventor who specialises in semiconductor technology. He is currently a professor at the materials department in the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara,” shared Professor Khu.

“The development of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) has made more efficient light sources possible. If we remember from our secondary physics, creating white light that can be used for lighting requires a combination of three primary colours - red, green and blue,” he said.

However, blue LEDs proved to be more difficult to create than their red or green counterparts.

“During the 1980s and 1990s, three gentlemen by the name of Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura successfully used a difficult to handle semiconductor and material called Gallium Nitride (GaN) to create efficient blue LEDs. It is this invention that has enabled bright and energy saving white light sources and they were duly awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics.”

Speaking to a packed auditorium, Professor Nakamura’s lecture was laced with humour, regaling his audience with witty anecdotes. The 63-year- old shared a brief history of his upbringing, the history and applications of LEDs, how the blue LED was invented, among other topics.

He also highlighted the dangers of blue light in his slide presentation, adding that the blue 'spike' in the white light output from an electronic device reduces production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and has been linked to various health disorders including cancer.

Despite describing his alma mater as a “low-ranking” Japanese university, Professor Nakamura went on to develop the manufacturing technology of blue LEDs in 1993 and has received a string of international prizes over the course of his illustrious career.

These include the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics by The Franklin Institute, the Millennium Technology Prize, the European Inventor Award and the Harvey Prize by Technion (Israel Institute of Technology).

After the lecture, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, Chairman of the Board of Monash University Malaysia presented the Japanese professor with a token of appreciation before Professor Nakamura fielded technical and non-technical questions from the floor.

The talk was organised by Monash University Malaysia as part of the Sir John Monash Lecture, in partnership with the Jeffrey Cheah Distinguished Speakers Series. The Sir John Monash Lectures engages high-profile thought leaders in the spheres of policy-making, corporate and academia to address key issues pertinent to stakeholders around the region.