Feeds

World+Dog hails 50th birthday of the LED

But this now commonplace technology is much, much older

High performance access to file storage

The Light Emitting Diode (LED) is 50 years old. Well, kind of...

It’s certainly 50 years since Nick Holonyak, working at GEC’s Syracuse, New York facility, developed what is considered the first LED capable of generating visible light. Holonyak’s LED was also the first to be in form ready for commercial usage. He wrote up his work and sent it off to Applied Physics Letters on 17 October 1962. The journal published the work in December 1962 under the headline ‘Coherent (visible) Light Emission from GaAs xPx Junctions’.

However, Holonyak’s work followed that of Gary Pittman and Robert Baird who, in 1961, observed the emission of infrared light by Gallium Arsenide - the GaAs in Holonyak’s headline - and, on the back of it, applied for and gained a patent - US number 3,025,589 - for the infrared LED.

Indeed, while Holonyak was working on his visible LED, so too were Robert Hall, also of GEC but employed at a different location; IBM’s Marshall Nathan; and MIT’s Robert Rediker. All four sent papers to journals; Holonyak was judged by his peers to have produced his LED first.

Nick Holonyak Henry Round Oleg Vladimirovich Losev

LED bellies: (L-R) Nick Holonyak, Henry J Round, Oleg Vladimirovich Losev

The substance’s ability to emit infrared had been previously observed by Rubin Braunstein six years earlier, in 1955. Braunstein, who was working for RCA at the time, published his findings, ‘Radiative Transitions in Semiconductors’, in Physical Review.

Follow the literature back and you end up in Britain in February 1907, with the work of Marconi assistant Henry Round, who first observed the emission of light from a crystal of silicon carbide when a current was applied to it, a phenomenon called electroluminescence. In that sense, the LED is more than 100 years old. Round, however, never wrote a report on his findings.

Twenty years later, Russian Oleg Vladimirovich Losev became the first scientist to create a semiconductor diode capable of emitting light - the first LED. Losev’s write-up was published at home, and in Britain and Germany, under the title ‘Luminous Carborundum Detector and Detection Effect and Oscillations with Crystals’. Given the terse notification of Round’s discovery 20 years previously in the English-language Electrical World, it’s highly unlikely Losev was aware of the Briton’s discovery. He was three years old when Round first observed electroluminescence.

In 1927 Losev applied for a patent to protect his finding, and the IP was granted in December 1929. However, his work was held to be of little practical value in the pre-war, pre-electronics era. He would eventually have 43 scientific papers and 16 patents under his belt, but he died in 1942, a victim of the German siege of Leningrad. He was 39 years old.

You can read more about Losev's story in Nikolay Zheludev's article in Nature Photonics April 2007 issue. ®

Thanks to Reg reader Darryl for the tip

Bootnote

The BBC has a lovely audio-cum-slideshow of the LED at 50, featuring an interview with Prof Nick Holonyak.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.