Nick Holonyak Jr., an electrical engineer who was known as the godfather of the LED lighting that illuminates flat-screen TVs and laptop computers, and who also developed lasers that enabled DVD and CD players, bar code scanners, and medical diagnostic devices, passed away on September 18 in Urbana, Illinois. Holonyak Jr. also developed lasers that enabled bar code scanners and medical diagnostic devices. Holonyak Jr. also developed LED lighting that illuminates flat-screen TVs and laptop computers. He was 93.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his alma school, made the announcement that he had passed away in a nursing home. He had been a professor at the university from 1963 until 2013, when he resigned. The day after he passed away, the State Farm Center arena on campus was lit up in red as a tribute to his development of the first visible light-emitting diode in the year 1962.
Professor Holonyak was one of the first scientists to predict that LEDs, which are semiconductor chips the size of a grain of sand that emit photons of light when electric current is applied to them, would eventually replace incandescent bulbs, which heat metal filaments to create energy, and fluorescent lamps, which use ionised gas. Incandescent bulbs heat metal filaments to create energy, and fluorescent lamps use ionised gas.
LEDs give forth less heat than incandescent lights, use less energy, and last longer than incandescent bulbs do. In addition, they are better for the environment than fluorescent bulbs, which have mercury inside of them. According to projections made by the United States Department of Energy, by the end of this decade, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) would account for more than 80 percent of all lighting sales and will result in around $30 billion yearly in savings for American households’ energy bills.
Hiroshi Amano of Japan and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for their successful development in 1993 of a high-brightness blue-light-emitting diode. This diode was required to blend with red and green to create white illumination and produce a spectrum of other colours. Amano and Nakamura were awarded the prize for their work. Amano is from Japan and Nakamura is from the
Professor Holonyak’s colleagues Herbert Kroemer, a German-American, and Zhores I. Alferov, a Russian, were awarded a portion of the prize in the year 2000 for their work in developing semiconductor and low-energy laser technology. This technology was rapidly put to use in a variety of practical applications, including mobile phones, fibre optics, CD players, and bar code readers.
After assisting his godfather in the maintenance of the spark coils for his Model T Ford, Nick Jr., who was the first in his family to get a formal education, developed an obsession with electricity. When he was 15, he started working for the Illinois Central Railroad laying ties, but after one 30-hour shift spent repairing flood damage, he decided to give up hard labour for good.
When he was a first-year student at the University of Illinois extension campus in Granite City, a teacher encouraged him to transfer from electrical engineering to chemistry, but he turned down the offer.
In 1950, 1951, and 1954, respectively, he attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and obtained the degrees of bachelor of electrical engineering, master of electrical engineering, and doctor of electrical engineering. John Bardeen, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice, took him on as his very first graduate student. He went on to achieve great success in his own right.
Katherine Jerger was Professor Holonyak’s bride at their 1955 wedding. She is his sole direct surviving. In 1957, he was honourably discharged from the Army after serving with the Army Signal Corps in Japan.
From 1957 through 1963, he did research at General Electric’s Advanced Semiconductor Laboratory in Syracuse, N.Y. It was there that he developed the crystals of gallium arsenide phosphide that gave out a visible red light. Those crystals are now in use.
In 1963, he made his way back to the University of Illinois, where he had completed his PhD studies, and established an endowment in Professor Bardeen’s honour at the institution. The institution was home to a transistor laser research facility that was directed by Professor Holonyak and managed by Milton Feng.
He owned 41 patents and earned several prizes for engineering and technology, including the Global Energy Prize, the National Medals of both Science and Technology, and the Draper Prize, from the National Academy of Engineering.
He avoided using computers and calculators while working alongside graduate students in an office and lab that lacked windows. He did this in order to combat the theoretical abstractions that often predominate in the field of physics. Instead, he experimented with novel approaches to resolving problems of a more mundane kind.