Three researchers, one from the United States and two from Japan, have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their roles in developing light-emitting diodes that shine blue – for decades, a Holy Grail in the field of photonics.

The trio’s collective breakthroughs have spawned light bulbs that last for a decade and consume less than 20 percent of the power incandescent bulbs use to provide the same amount of light. Blue LEDs have made possible today’s flat-panel, full-color computer monitors and TV screens, and are used in lasers for Blu-ray DVD players and higher density data storage on computer DVDs. The technology also is being incorporated into water purifiers, which use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses in water.

Globally, LED lights, combined with batteries and solar panels to charge them, could allow more than 1 billion people to move from kerosene lamps – or no lamps at all – to electric lighting without using local gas or diesel generators or regional power plants to provide it.

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