by CIO Staff

California Professor Wins $1.2M Millennium Tech Prize

Jun 15, 20062 mins

Shuji Nakamura, a Japanese engineer and University of California, Santa Barbara professor, has been awarded the $1.2 million Millennium Technology Prize for his work in the fields of light and laser technology, the Associated Press reports via the New York Post.

Jaakko Ihamuotila, the Millennium Prize Foundation chairman, made the announcement at a ceremony in Espoo, Finland on Thursday, according to the AP.

Fifty-two-year-old Nakamura developed the blue light-emitting diode (LED), which is commonly employed in traffic lights and for keeping data on optical discs, the AP reports.

Nakamura is well-known for his 2005 legal dispute with ex-employer Nichia, in which he challenged the long-running Japanese custom of holding devotion to employers over devotion to one’s self, according the AP. The suit was eventually settled for $8 million, and it had to do with a patent on lighting technology, the AP reports.

Millennium Prize Foundation Secretary General Tapio Alvesalo said Nakamura’s work helped create a light source that can last as much as 50 times longer than traditional lightbulbs, and that the technology may eventually make such bulbs obsolete because it does not give off heat, according to the AP.

Nakamura also invented a blue laser that can be used to purify water, the AP reports.

The Millennium Technology prize is awarded every two years “for a technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life,” and Nakamura is the second person to receive it since the program’s inception in 2002, according to the AP. Tim Berners-Lee, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who invented the World Wide Web, won the award in 2004, the AP reports.

Eight committee members chose the winner from 109 international nominees from 32 countries, and Nakamura is to receive the award in September at a gathering in Helsinki, Finland, according to the AP.

The Finnish government and a handful of the country’s businesses and organizations provide funding for the Millennium Prize Foundation, the AP reports.

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