The US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has awarded the 2015 Charles
Stark Draper Prize for Engineering to Nick Holonyak Jr, Isamu Akasaki, M.
George Craford, Russell Dupuis, and Shuji Nakamura for “the invention,
development, and commercialization of materials and processes for LEDs. The
prize will be presented at a gala dinner in Washington D.C. on 24 February.
In 1988, in honor of the memory of Charles Stark Draper, known as the
‘father of inertial navigation’, the National Association of Engineering (NAE)
established the $500,000 annual Draper Prize at the request of Charles Stark
Draper Laboratory Inc.
The Draper Prize, which is NAE’s highest honor, is given to engineers for
achievements that have significantly benefited society by improving the quality
of life, and/or expanding access to information.
“These prize-winning engineers were the pioneers in a technology
that has changed the world we live in, from the aesthetics in our homes, to
advancements in our visual capabilities, and to environmental
stewardship,” stated NAE president C D. Mote Jr.
In 1962, Nick Holonyak Jr created the first visible, red LED while working
at General Electric. He studied III-V materials including gallium arsenide
(GaAs) and found that adding phosphorus (P) to gallium arsenide resulted in a
shortened wavelength. He ultimately tuned the GaAsP LED to emit visible red
lightIn 1972, George Craford invented the first yellow LED and increased its
brightness by adding nitrogen to the GaAsP LED. Craford also participated in
developing processes for the first large-scale commercial production of red
LEDs. He later led work that resulted in the first high-brightness yellow and
red LEDs, available in 1992, and subsequently contributed to the development of
high-power white LEDs.
Russell Dupuis developed and refined the metal-organic chemical vapor
deposition (MOCVD) process in 1977, which enabled the production of
high-brightness LEDs and is now the basis of nearly all production of
high-brightness LEDs, and other high-speed optoelectronic devices including
laser diodes and solar cells.
In 1987 Isamu Akasaki used MOCVD to grow high-quality gallium nitride
crystals on sapphire substrates, creating the first blue LED (which later
enabled efficient, bright, white light sources).
In 1992, Shuji Nakamura also made important contributions to InGaN-based
high-brightness double-heterostructure blue LEDs, as well as laser diodes that
allowed development of the high-density digital video disk (Blu Ray DVD).
Nakamura, who is a professor of materials and of electrical & computer
engineering at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), received the 2014
Nobel Prize in Physics (shared with professors Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano)
for helping develop the first high-brightness blue LED.