Isamu Akasaki

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Isamu Akasaki
赤崎 勇
Isamu Akasaki 201111.jpg
Isamu Akasaki
Born(1929-01-30)January 30, 1929
DiedApril 1, 2021(2021-04-01) (aged 92)
Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Alma mater Kyoto University
Nagoya University
Awards Asahi Prize (2001)
Takeda Award (2002)
Kyoto Prize (2009)
IEEE Edison Medal (2011)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2014)
Charles Stark Draper Prize (2015)
Scientific career
Fields Physics, Engineering
Institutions Meijo University
Nagoya University

Isamu Akasaki (赤崎 勇, Akasaki Isamu, January 30, 1929 – April 1, 2021) was a Japanese engineer and physicist, specializing in the field of semiconductor technology and Nobel Prize laureate, best known for inventing the bright gallium nitride (GaN) p-n junction blue LED in 1989 and subsequently the high-brightness GaN blue LED as well. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


For this and other achievements, Akasaki was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology in 2009, [6] and the IEEE Edison Medal in 2011. [7] He was also awarded the 2014 Nobel prize in Physics, together with Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, [8] "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources". In 2021, Akasaki, along with Shuji Nakamura, Nick Holonyak, M. George Craford and Russell D. Dupuis were awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering "for the creation and development of LED lighting, which forms the basis of all solid state lighting technology". [9]

Early life and education

Isamu Akasaki Isamu Akasaki 20141211.jpg
Isamu Akasaki

He was born in Chiran, Kagoshima Prefecture and raised in Kagoshima City. [10] [11] His elder brother is Masanori Akazaki  [ ja ] who was a electronic engineering researcher, Professor Emeritus at Kyushu University. [11] Isamu finished Kagoshima Prefectural Daini-Kagoshima Middle School (now Kagoshima Prefectural Konan High School) and Seventh Higher School Zoshikan (now Kagoshima University). [11] He graduated from Kyoto University in 1952, and obtained a Dr.Eng. degree in Electronics from Nagoya University in 1964. [10] [11] During college years, he visited shrines and temples that local residents rarely visit, walked around the mountains of Shinshu during the summer vacation, enjoyed classes and enjoyed a fulfilling student era. [10]


Akasaki started working on GaN-based blue LEDs in the late 1960s. Step by step, he improved the quality of GaN crystals and device structures [12] at Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo, Inc. (MRIT), where he decided to adopt metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy (MOVPE) as the preferred growth method for GaN.

In 1981 he started afresh the growth of GaN by MOVPE at Nagoya University, and in 1985 he and his group succeeded in growing high-quality GaN on sapphire substrate by pioneering the low-temperature (LT) buffer layer technology. [13] [14]

This high-quality GaN enabled them to discover p-type GaN by doping with magnesium (Mg) and subsequent activation by electron irradiation (1989), to produce the first GaN p-n junction blue/UV LED (1989), and to achieve conductivity control of n-type GaN (1990) [15] and related alloys (1991) [16] by doping with silicon (Si), enabling the use of hetero structures and multiple quantum wells in the design and structure of more efficient p-n junction light emitting structures.

They achieved stimulated emission from the GaN firstly at room temperature in 1990, [17] and developed in 1995 the stimulated emission at 388 nm with pulsed current injection from high-quality AlGaN/GaN/GaInN quantum well device. [18] They verified quantum size effect (1991) [19] and quantum confined Stark effect (1997) [20] in nitride system, and in 2000 showed theoretically the orientation dependence of piezoelectric field and the existence of non-/semi-polar GaN crystals, [21] which have triggered today's worldwide efforts to grow those crystals for application to more efficient light emitters.

Nagoya University Akasaki Institute

Akasaki Institute Chi Qi Ji Nian Yan Jiu Guan .jpg
Akasaki Institute

Akasaki's patents were produced from these inventions, and the patents have been rewarded as royalties. Nagoya University Akasaki Institute [22] opened on October 20, 2006. The cost of construction of the institute was covered with the patent royalty income to the university, which was also used for a wide range of activities in Nagoya University. The institute consists of an LED gallery to display the history of blue LED research/developments and applications, an office for research collaboration, laboratories for innovative research, and Akasaki's office on the top sixth floor. The institute is situated in the center of the collaboration research zone in Nagoya University Higashiyama campus.

Professional record

with Seiji Morimoto (in Sweden) Isamu Akasaki and Seiji Morimoto 2014.jpg
with Seiji Morimoto (in Sweden)

Akasaki worked as a Research Scientist from 1952 to 1959 at Kobe Kogyo Corporation (now, Fujitsu Ltd.). [23] In 1959 he was a Research Associate, Assistant Professor, and Associate Professor at the Department of Electronics at Nagoya University until 1964. Later in 1964, he was the Head of Basic Research Laboratory at Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo, Inc. until 1974 to later become a General Manager of Semiconductor Department (in the same institute until 1981.[ citation needed ] In 1981 he became a Professor in the Department of Electronics at Nagoya University until 1992. [23]

From 1987 to 1990 he was a Project Leader of "Research and Development of GaN-based Blue Light–Emitting Diode" sponsored by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). He then led the "Research and Development of GaN-based Short-Wavelength Semiconductor Laser Diode" product sponsored by JST from 1993 to 1999. While he led this project, he was also a Visiting Professor at the Research Center for Interface Quantum Electronics at Hokkaido University, from 1995 to 1996. In 1996 he was a Project Leader of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science's for the "Future program" up to 2001. From 1996 he started as a Project Leader of "High-Tech Research Center for Nitride Semiconductors" at Meijo University, sponsored by MEXT until 2004. From 2003 up to 2006 he was the Chairman of "R&D Strategic Committee on the Wireless Devices Based on Nitride Semiconductors" sponsored by METI.

He continued working as a Professor Emeritus of Nagoya University, Professor of Meijo University from 1992. [23] He was also the Director of the Research Center for Nitride Semiconductors at Meijo University since 2004. He also worked as a Research Fellow at Akasaki Research Center of Nagoya University from 2001.


Akasaki died of pneumonia, on April 1, 2021, aged 92. [24]

Honors and awards

Scientific and academic

with Shuji Nakamura and Hiroshi Amano (at the Grand Hotel on December 8, 2014) Shuji Nakamura Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki 20141208.jpg
with Shuji Nakamura and Hiroshi Amano (at the Grand Hôtel on December 8, 2014)
  • 1989 – Japanese Association for Crystal Growth (JACG) Award
  • 1991 – Chu-Nichi Culture Prize [25]
  • 1994 – Technological Contribution Award, Japanese Association for Crystal Growth in commemoration of its 20th anniversary
  • 1995 – Heinrich Welker Gold Medal, the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors
  • 1996 – Engineering Achievement Award, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers / Lasers Electro-Optics Society
  • 1998 – Inoue Harushige Award, Japan Science and Technology Agency
  • 1998 – C&C Prize, the Nippon Electric Company Corporation [26]
  • 1998 – Laudise Prize, the International Organization for Crystal Growth [27]
  • 1998 – Jack A. Morton Award, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [28]
  • 1998 – Rank Prize, the Rank Prize Foundation [29]
  • 1999 – Fellow, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [30]
  • 1999 – Gordon E. Moore Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Solid State Science and Technology, the Electrochemical Society [31]
  • 1999 – Honoris Causa Doctorate, the University of Montpellier II
  • 1999 – Toray Science and Technology Prize, Toray Science Foundation [32]
  • 2001 – Asahi Prize, the Asahi Shinbun Cultural Foundation [33]
  • 2001 – Honoris Causa Doctorate, Linkoping University
  • 2002 – Outstanding Achievement Award, the Japan Society of Applied Physics
  • 2002 – Fujihara Award, the Fujihara Foundation of Science [34]
  • 2002 – Takeda Award, the Takeda Foundation [35]
  • 2003 – President's Award, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) [36]
  • 2003 – Solid State Devices & Materials (SSDM) Award
  • 2004 – Tokai TV Culture Prize
  • 2004 – University Professor, Nagoya University
  • 2006 – John Bardeen Award, the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society [37]
  • 2006 – Outstanding Achievement Award, the Japanese Association for Crystal Growth
  • 2007 – Honorable Lifetime Achievement Award, the 162nd Research Committee on Wide Bandgap Semiconductor Photonic and Electronic Devices, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
  • 2008 – Foreign Associate, the US National Academy of Engineering [38]
  • 2009 – Kyoto Prize Advanced Technology, the Inamori Foundation [39]
  • 2010 – Lifetime Professor, Meijo University
  • 2011 – Edison Medal, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [7]
  • 2011 – Special Award for Intellectual Property Activities, the Japan Science and Technology Agency [40]
  • 2011 – Minami-Nippon Culture Prize-Honorable Prize
  • 2014 – Nobel Prize in Physics together with Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura [8]
  • 2015 – Charles Stark Draper Prize [23]
  • 2015 – Asia Game Changer Award [41]
  • 2016 – UNESCO Medal for contributions to the development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies ceremony [42]
  • 2021 – Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering


Akasaki received the Order of Culture. After that, they posed for the photo. (at the East Garden of the Tokyo Imperial Palace on November 3, 2011) Mitsuhiro Yanagida Isamu Akasaki Saiichi Nemura Toshiro Nara and Taichiro Mitani 20111103.jpg
Akasaki received the Order of Culture. After that, they posed for the photo. (at the East Garden of the Tokyo Imperial Palace on November 3, 2011)

See also

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Further reading