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Draper Prize for Engineering Rewards LED Pioneers

ECE’s Russell Dupuis among honorees

Atlanta, GA

CAMBRIDGE, MA – LEDs reduced U.S. CO2 emissions by an estimated 12 million tons in 2013, produce the greatest amount of light for the energy used, and have the longest lifetime of any lighting source available. In recognition of the significant benefit to society created by the initial development and commercialization of LED technologies 20 years ago, five pioneers will receive the $500,000 Draper Prize for Engineering.

“Great engineers imagine new things – and build them,” said Draper Laboratory President and CEO Kaigham J. Gabriel. “These LED pioneers created technologies that brought new light to our lives, spawning an industry that today boasts hundreds of thousands of jobs while making energy consumption more efficient.”

Isamu Akasaki; George Craford; Russell Dupuis; Nick Holonyak, Jr.; and Shuji Nakamura each made contributions critical to taking light-emitting diodes from laboratory concept to ubiquitous reality in smartphone screens, surgical lighting, agriculture and many other applications.

Holonyak created the first red LED in 1962. Craford invented the first yellow LED in 1972. He also developed processes for the first large-scale commercial production of red LEDs, and decades later contributed to the development of high-efficiency white LEDs.

Georgia Tech’s Dupuis invented the process that is the basis of virtually all production of high-brightness LEDs, laser diodes, solar cells, and high-speed optoelectronic (light controlling) devices, in 1977.

Akasaki created the first blue LED in 1989, which enabled bright energy-saving white light sources by using Dupuis’ technology. Nakamura demonstrated the first high-brightness blue LED in 1994, which led to the development of Blu-ray™ technology.

Long-lasting white light used in LED display screens comes from mixing red, yellow and blue LEDs. According to industry analysts, LED lighting created a $17.7 billion global industry, while benefiting the environment with its high efficiency.

Dupuis was appointed Steve W. Chaddick Chair in Electro-Optics at Georgia Tech in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2003.  He is currently studying the growth of III-V compound semiconductor devices by MOCVD, including materials in the InAlGaN/GaN, InAlGaAsP/GaAs, InAlGaAsSb, and InAlGaAsP/InP systems. A Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Dupuis and two of his colleagues were awarded the 2002 National Medal of Technology for their work on developing and commercializing LEDs.He won the 1985 IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a Fellow of the IEEE, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Optical Society of America. Dupuis won the 2004 John Bardeen Award and the 2007 IEEE Edison Medal.

The Charles Stark Draper Prize was established and endowed by Draper Laboratory in 1988 in tribute to its founder, Dr. Charles Stark Draper, who pioneered inertial navigation. It honors those who have contributed to the advancement of engineering and public understanding of the importance of engineering and technology. Previous winners over the past 25 years include the inventors of the mobile phone and supporting infrastructure, the World Wide Web, GPS, and the turbojet engine. The Draper Prize for Engineering, which annually recognizes engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society, is considered the Nobel Prize of engineering.

Last revised May 15, 2020