Shuji Nakamura was born on May 22, 1954 in Ehime, Japan. He obtained B.E., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tokushima, Japan in 1977, 1979, and 1994, respectively. He joined Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd in 1979. In 1988, he spent a year at the University of Florida as a visiting research associate.
In 1989 he started the research of blue LEDs using group-III nitride materials. In 1990, he developed a novel MOCVD system for GaN growth, which was named Two-Flow MOCVD. Using this system, he could grow the highest crystal quality GaN-based materials. From his perspective, the invention of Two-Flow MOCVD was the biggest breakthrough in his life and his GaN-based research.
In 1991, he obtained p-type GaN films by thermal annealing for the first time and finally he could clarify the Hydrogen passivation as a hole compensation mechanism for the first time. This hydrogen passivation of the acceptors had hindered to obtain p-type GaN films since the beginning of GaN research in 1960s done by many researchers.
In 1992, he also could grow the first InGaN single crystal layers which showed the first band to band emission in PL and EL at room temperature. These InGaN layers have been used for an emitting layer of all of the blue/green/white LEDs and all of the violet/blue/green semiconductor lasers. Without his invention of InGaN layers, there have been no blue/green/white LEDs and no violet/blue/green semiconductor laser diodes.
In 1993 and 1995 he developed the first group-III nitride-based high-brightness blue/green LEDs. He also developed the first group-III nitride-based violet laser diodes (LDs) in 1995. In 1996, his former company, Nichia, started selling white LEDs using his invention of blue LEDs. These white LEDs have been used for all kinds of lighting applications in order to save energy consumptions. The electric consumption of white LEDs is about one tenth in comparison with that of conventional incandescent bulb lamp nowadays. In 1999, Nichia started selling the violet laser diodes for the application of blue-ray DVDs. Without his invention of violet laser diodes, the blue ray DVD was not realized.
Professor Nakamura had received numerous awards for his work, including the Nishina Memorial Award (1996), the Materials Research Society Medal Award (1997), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Jack A. Morton Award, the British Rank Prize (1998), the Benjamin Franklin Medal Award (2002), the Millennium Technology Prize (2006), the Czochralski Award (2007), the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical Scientific Research (2008), The Harvey Award (2009), and the Technology & Engineering Emmy Award (2012) awarded by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). He is the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources. Prof. Nakamura is a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of the 2014 Order of Culture Award in Japan, the 2015 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering, the 2015 Global Energy Prize, the 2017 Mountbatten Medal Achievement Award, the 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize, the Iwaki Award, the 2020 National Academy of Science (NAS) Award for the Industrial Application of Science, and the 2021 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
Since 2000, he has been a professor of Materials and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds more than 200 US patents and over 175 Japanese patents. He has published over 550 papers in his field. Prof. Nakamura is the Research Director of the Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center and The Cree Chair in Solid State Lighting & Displays. He co-founded Soraa, Inc. in 2008, which operates vertically integrated fabrication facilities in California’s Silicon Valley and Santa Barbara. In 2013, he co-founded SLD Laser, along with Professor Steven DenBaars, Dr. James Raring, and Dr. Paul Rudy to pioneer blue lasers and laser lighting products. SLD Laser was acquired by Kyocera Corporation in early 2021.