Stephen Speicher

A tribute to Shuji Nakamura

2 posts in this topic

Question: You've now moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara. How do you find the research culture in the US?

Nakamura: Everything is different in the US. Individuals are important, whereas in Japan the group as a whole is valued more. This might be the strength of US research, because inventions always come from individuals rather than from groups. I think individual creativity is more likely to flourish in the US system, whereas the system in Japan is more suitable for mass production.

I sent this wonderful quote to a friend who is attending UCSB, and I just realized that this might be of interest to many. Shuji Nakamura is an inventor who has had a tremendous impact on the technology in use today, and he continues to affect our technology of tomorrow. Here is a short write-up about and interview with Nakamura back in 2000. The opening paragraph:

The history of science has more than its share of underdog stories—researchers working off the beaten track who succeed where others can’t—but few of them, if any, are as remarkable as the story of Shuji Nakamura and the blue laser diode. For decades the blue laser was the ultimate dream in laser technology. The reason was a simple combination of physics and market economics. Blue light has the shortest wavelength of visible light. Build a blue laser diode, and you could quadruple the amount of data that could be read and stored on a compact disc, a CD-ROM, or a digital video disc (DVD) player. With red and green laser diodes already on the shelves, blue was the last of the primary colors left to tackle, and if that could be done, one could imagine a device that combined blue, red, and green and emitted white light, perhaps putting the light bulb as we know it out of business.

Just a couple of days ago it was announced that a team led by Shuji Nakamura had demonstrated the world's first nonpolar blue-violet laser diodes. The beginning of the press release:

Public release date: 29-Jan-2007

UCSB researchers, led by Shuji Nakamura, achieve major breakthrough in laser diode development

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) -- A team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara led by Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize, has reported a major breakthrough in laser diode development.

The researchers, from the Solid State Lighting and Display Center in UCSB's College of Engineering, have achieved lasing operation in nonpolar gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors and demonstrated the world's first nonpolar blue-violet laser diodes.

The nonpolar blue-violet laser diodes have numerous commercial applications, including high-density optical data storage for high definition displays and video, optical sensing, and medical applications. Because of the shorter wavelength of emission in these devices, they can accommodate higher densities of optical storage than conventional red-laser based systems.

Nakamura, a professor in the Department of Materials at UC Santa Barbara's College of Engineering, is internationally known for his invention of revolutionary new light sources: blue, green, and white light-emitting diodes and the blue laser diode. He and two of his UCSB faculty colleagues, professors Steven DenBaars and James Speck, directed the work of two graduate students, Mathew Schmidt and Kwang Choong Kim, who fabricated the new nonpolar blue-violet laser diodes.

The findings have now been submitted for publication. A public demonstration of the nonpolar blue-violet laser is being planned for early February at UC Santa Barbara.

Said Nakamura: "Our initial results of the first violet nonpolar laser diodes with a low threshold current density demonstrate a high possibility that current c-plane violet laser diodes used for HD-DVD and Blue Ray DVD could soon be replaced with nonpolar violet laser diodes, which require lower operating power and have longer lifetimes.

"Everything is different in the US. Individuals are important ...," indeed!

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Let their be (coherent) light!

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