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Nobel winner’s ‘LED 2.0’ heads to Asia

Next stop China? Nobel winner Shuji Nakamura during a London interview with Lux in November, 2013. His US company has expanded in the UK and has just landed in Japan.

What do you do after you win a Nobel prize for co-developing the blue LED, the chip that opened the way for LED lamps?

If you’re Shuji Nakamura, you continue the global expansion of the company you founded six years ago to push LED lighting beyond blue and into new performance heights that Nakamura calls ‘LED 2.0.’

Nakamura’s Fremont, Calif.-based Soraa has opened sales operations in Japan and will use them as a ‘steppingstone’ into other Asian markets, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The move follows the company’s earlier expansion into the UK. Nakamura said last October that Soraa was eyeing China and the rest of the world.

Venture-bcked Soraa has about 250 employees and annual sales of roughly $40 million, mostly in the US, according to the story.

Soraa makes LED lamps for residential, outdoor and commercial applications that make use of violet chips and a technique known as ‘GaN-on-GaN’ – gallium nitride chips on a gallium nitride substrate (other LEDs tend to be on different substrates such as sapphire or silicon carbide).

The company says that the chips emit five times more light per area than conventional LED materials, and that they have superior colour rendering capabilities. The GaN-on-GaN LEDs can handle more electric current than other LED technologies. When Nakamura spoke last year about a possible expansion in China, he hinted at ‘enabling’ a company there to use its technology

Soraa is also looking at applying the violet-based light for health benefits such as stimulating circadian rhythms.

‘We think there are a lot of things you can do in the area of circadian, alertness, simulating sunlight and stimulating the sensors in people’s eyes to solve certain issues and problems,’ Soraa CEO Jeff Parker said last autumn. At  the time, Nakamura noted, ‘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.’

Last October, Nakamura shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano for their work on blue LEDs, the invention that led to LED lamps when combined with red and green diodes, invented earlier. Prior to blue chips, LEDs were common for instrument panels, appliances, clocks, stereos, gadgets and many other uses, but were not light sources for lamps (bulbs).

Today’s LED lamps generally require less than 20 percent of the electricity of conventional incandescent lamps. Their shortcomings include inferior colour rendering. Soraa claims big advances in both areas.

Nakamura also believes that laser diodes will eventually replace LED lighitng.

Photo is a screen grab from Lux video interview with Nakamura at LuxLive 2013, London

More Nakamura nuggets on Lux: