Feature, Healthcare

He won a Nobel Prize for making lighting efficient, now he wants to make it healthy

Shuji Nakamura speaking at LuxLive, Europe's largest annual lighting trade show, last year

Not content with winning a Nobel Prize for his blue LED – which kicked off the LED lighting revolution – Shuji Nakamura now plans to shake up the world of ‘human-centric’ lighting with new technology based on violet LEDs.

Soraa, the US-based company co-founded by Nakamura, is currently working on ‘human-centric’ lighting technology and plans to ‘have something by next year’, Nakamura and Soraa CEO Jeff Parker have confirmed.

The gallium nitride on gallium nitride (GaN-on-GaN) LED technology developed by Soraa produces violet light which, when combined with phosphors, lends itself well to biodynamic healthcare lighting because it produces a full spectrum of light with a CRI of up to 95.

Soraa’s R&D department is currently busy testing the possibilities of GaN-on-GaN technology to produce light with health benefits: ‘We’re working on it, we’ve prototyped it and we’re doing testing on it,’ said Parker at a media teleconference on Wednesday. ‘We think there are a lot of things you can to in the area of circadian, alertness, simulating sunlight and stimulating the sensors in people’s eyes to solve certain issues and problems. We’ll have something next year.’ 

Nakamura said: ‘Blue LED technology has a lot of problems because it is missing colours of violet, blue, green and red, so the light is not like sunlight. But using Soraa’s GaN-on-GaN technology, based on a violet LED, creates a full colour spectrum and good colour quality.’

Parker said: ‘Just the fact that we start with full spectrum light allows us to adjust light for circadian patterns or alertness. We think we’re in a very good position [to develop biodynamic lighting technology] and we’re working on it.’

New investment opportunities

The telephone hasn’t stopped ringing at Soraa HQ since its co-founder, Shuji Nakamura, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for the invention of blue LED. ‘Since the award we’ve been getting a lot of calls from people wanting to invest in the company and to take the technology to different markets and applications in lighting fixtures, lamps and LED components,’ Parker said.

He denied being concerned about competition from China: ‘We grow pure crystal on pure crystal, which is very hard to do. There is a lot of knowhow involved, so I think it would be very hard for that to go to China unless we enable someone to do it. The technology allows you to use five to 10 times less die material, so that will give us a long-term advantage.’

Instead, Soraa is looking to China and the rest of the world for business development opportunities. ‘What we want to do as a company is look for partners geographically and in markets throughout the world to help us enable the technology, so we look at China as a growth opportunity, just like we look at the rest of the world. We’re looking forward to partnering and working with people over there,’ Parker said.