BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JUNE 14, 1999 ISSUE
INTERNATIONAL -- ASIAN COVER STORY

Shuji Nakamura, Senior Researcher, Nichia Chemical, Japan (int'l edition)


ANYONE WHO THINKS THAT JAPAN CAN'T COMPETE IN THE HIGH-TECH RACE should take a look at what Shuji Nakamura of Nichia Chemical Industries Ltd. has achieved. His research breakthroughs in blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have startled scientists at dozens of larger organizations and helped double Nichia's revenues in three years. More difficult to make than red LEDs, Nakamura's blue versions are used in applications such as traffic lights. They also can be clustered with red and green LEDs to make giant TV screens. Now Nakamura, 45, is making progress on an even more ambitious project: producing a blue laser commercially. This could enable digital video disks (DVDs) to hold 4.6 times the information of current models, thus dramatically increasing both the quality and the length of videos.

Nakamura's efforts have paid off only after years of persistence. Back in 1988, after nine years of toiling alone on diodes in his laboratory, he received an unsolicited opinion on his career. ''No one in the company wants to spend any more money on your research,'' a co-worker informed him over too many beers. His colleagues thought the resources of a small, $315 million company could better be spent on other research. ''My situation was very bad,'' says Nakamura. ''I became desperate.'' But he channeled that desperation into developing a commercially successful version of the blue LED.

No one could have guessed from his background that Nakamura would become one of Japan's hottest stars. He was born in Shikoku, an island southwest of Osaka known for its temples and mist-shrouded hills, and has stayed there most of his life. His high school grades were poor, so he went to a local, unrenowned university. He joined little-known Nichia because it was close to home.

Nakamura needs long periods alone to think creatively. He works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 355 days a year, and says he has never taken a vacation. ''It's my personality,'' he explains, noting that his wife and three daughters don't seem to mind. ''Even if I stay at home, I am always thinking about my work. So it's better for me to come to [the office].'' That dedication could soon put Nichia's blue lasers in homes all over the world.



_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

BACK TO TOP


The Stars of Asia

RELATED ITEMS
Shuji Nakamura, Senior Researcher, Nichia Chemical, Japan (int'l edition)

ONLINE ORIGINAL: ``Since 1991 I Have Made Some Kind of a Breakthrough Every Few Months'' (int'l e



INTERACT
E-Mail to Business Week Online

 
Copyright 1999, Bloomberg L.P.
Terms of Use   Privacy Policy