Outlook bright for LED technology

Solar-powered light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can bring a brighter future to half a million people. The material, for which Hiroshi Amano received a Nobel Prize, is now being further developed.

He received the Nobel Prize in 2014, sharing it with two other Japanese scientists, for inventing efficient blue light-emitting diodes. They can be used to produce bright and energy-efficient white light sources.

Compared to the now banned incandescent light bulbs, light-emitting diodes, or LED light bulbs as they are commonly called, need very little energy to light up a room. They also last 100 times longer than their predecessor.

“People without access to the power grid can use solar-powered LED lights to have a better life,” said Hiroshi Amano when he visited IVA.

The key to the white-light emitting LED light bulbs is crystallized gallium nitride, a material that Amano believes can be highly significant in a number of ways.

“It is the most promising material for the efficient, wireless transfer of energy.”

Car headlights could, for example, receive the power supply they need without cables. And all of the billions of devices and sensors that are creating the Internet of Things (IoT) could, according to Amano, be more energy-efficient if gallium nitride were to be used in semiconductors.

Hiroshi Amano believes that in the distant future this technology will enable energy to be transfered wirelessly over relatively long distances. Amano and his research team at Nagoya University are developing a system which, if they are successful, will enable drones to be charged in mid-air.

But the promising material, gallium nitride, is not without problems. It is still hard to produce in large, fully homogenous pieces.