We take light for granted – in our offices, when we turn the computer on, when we wake up in the morning, driving at night or even watching a football match in a floodlit stadium.
But this week, the group of scientists who paved the way for lighting our lives in such an all-encompassing manner finally, and deservedly, achieved the ultimate award in their field – the Nobel Prize for Physics.
If it hadn’t been for Professors Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, together with Shuji Nakamura, Philips would not have been able to build on their invention and introduce so many life-changing innovations.
Life-changing not just for consumers who live in the West but, more importantly, for societies that, until recently, weren’t even able to switch on a light to read at night.
In the 1960s, we had developed red and yellow LEDs; the next decade brought us green, but blue remained elusive – until their breakthroughs in the 1990s.
And the blue was so significant because, finally, we had the last piece of the jigsaw that meant we could mix the colours to create white light in LED lamps.
From that moment, innovation in lighting changed for ever. Not simply because it meant that LEDs would one day replace incandescent lighting, but because it provided the planet with a lighting source that used less power, was more sustainable, cheaper to run and more environmentally-friendly. About a quarter of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, but LEDs use less power, last 10 times longer than fluorescent lamps and 100 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.