LED inventor bets on lasers to replace LEDs

Dr Shuji Nakamura speaking about LED and laser technology at the LuxLive exhibition in London. 'Laser diodes are the future of lighting,' he says.

The inventor of the blue LED, Dr Shuji Nakamura, says laser diodes are the future of lighting – and have compelling advantages over LED.

Next week he will unveil a new company to commercialise the technology in a move that will focus the attention of the lighting industry on the potential visible laser sources.

Nobel-prize winning Nakamura – who invented both the green and blue LED, the latter of which led to the so-called LED revolution – has co-founded SoraaLaser, which will debut to huge media and scientific interest at next week’s Strategies in Light conference in California.

The company will reveal its advanced sources which it says have unique performance properties such as collimated output and waveguide delivery. It says they provide compelling advantages over LED, OLED, and legacy sources.

SoraaLaser is an independent spin-off from Soraa Inc, and was co-founded by Nakamura.  ‘Laser diodes are droop-free, and can be combined with phosphors to safely produce highly directional output with superior delivered lumens per watt compared to other light sources,’ Dr. Nakamura told Lux.  ‘Laser diodes are lighting’s future.’

In an exclusive interview with Nakamura, he describes  the tech as ‘a great opportunity for the next lighting [products].’.

Laser lighting is already used for automobile headlamps at BMW and Audi, because the laser diode’s efficiency is ten times higher than that of the LED headlamp. The radiation distance of a laser diode headlamp is almost 700 metres, whereas LED headlamp is only 300 metres, and current automobile headlamps are only 100 metres.

There are already a couple of laser diode-equipped cars in existence. The BMW i8, which launched this summer, is the first car to use laser headlights developed by Osram. A special edition Audi R8 LMX has also been created. The laser diodes are so small that they can be worked into the structure, opening up new possibilities for car design.

But Nakamura hastened to add that there is still some way to go before laser diode technology will reach its full potential. ‘We can make highly efficient lighting in the near future, but we still have to work very hard to make the laser diodes highly efficient. I think this will be a huge opportunity in the future,’ he said.

SoraaLaser’s visible laser light sources are based on its proprietary and patented semi-polar GaN laser diodes, combined with advanced phosphor technology.  These laser light sources provide novel properties compared with other light sources by combining the benefits of solid-state illumination such as minimal power consumption and long lifetime, with the highly directional output that has been possible only with legacy technology. 

Because the laser light is focused to a small spot on the phosphor and converted to white light, the SoraaLaser light sources enable safe, highly collimated white light output, ‘vastly superior’ optical control with miniature optics and reflectors, along with high efficiency fibre optic transport and glare-free waveguide delivery.  The company says initial markets will be in applications such as architectural, hospitality, retail, security, entertainment, and automotive.


  • Internet of Things-based lighting control, data capture and security will be a key theme of LuxLive 2017, which takes place on Wednesday 15 November and Thursday 16 November at ExCeL London. For more information, and to register for free, click here.



Watch our interview with Dr Shuji Nakamura: