Shuji Nakamura at UM: The History, Blue LEDs, and Education

Text:Trainee UM Reporter Gonzales Wu

Blue LEDs are certainly a technical breakthrough, but making it affordable for the general public might just be more challenging. The Nobel laureate in physics Shuji Nakamura from the University of California, San Barbara, recently gave a talk on the history of, and scientific insights into, high efficient blue LEDs at the University of Macau, which was part of the Great Global Minds Series.

 Shuji Nakamura at UM: The History, Blue LEDs, and Education

UM Rector Wei Zhao welcomed Prof Shuji and asked the audience a question: why does Macao need scientific research? He said that Macao already has affluent business minds, cultural ideas, and political insights, but it would be incomplete without scientific thinking; doing research in Macao ‘is not only to obtain new technology, but to have at least one group of people, one portion of population, who can think in a scientific way.’

Prof Shuji explained the invention of the blue LED, and how the white LED was created by mingling blue and yellow LEDs. Mass production of LEDs has made it possible to deliver lights to more people in third-world countries. He illustrated this by comparing the annual cost of a kerosene burner with that of an LED lamp; the latter costs only USD 3 per year, 1/50 the cost of a burner.

Tang Zikang, chair professor from the Institute of Applied Physics and Materials Engineering, also gave a speech. He compared the efficiency of LED with that of incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs and cited an example from MGM, in which MGM saved a huge amount on electricity costs by replacing more than 90 per cent of light bulbs with LEDs.

When asked how he guides his students in research, Prof Shuji said he always gives maximum freedom to his students in research, adding that he feels no need to intervene, because most students are capable of delivering good results by working independently. “I give them the research direction, research funding, and freedom,” he said.

Shuji also shared his thoughts on education in science and technology. One student asked Shuji’s views about the differences between education in East Asia and education in the United States. He said while high-school students in Japan study diligently in order to enter top universities, those schools never teach them how to survive in society, which is not the case in the US; He added that unlike many UM undergraduates, he himself made his first academic presentation only after starting his master’s studies.