50 years ago today, Nick Holonyak Jr. demonstrated the first visible light LED to the management of General Electric. They were in the race to create an incandescent bulb replacement even back in 1962, but obviously, it’s taken a little longer than Holonyak estimated for that to come to pass. No matter though, as LEDs are here to stay, and have a ‘bright’ future ahead of them in our homes, and more importantly, over our aquariums.
Holonyak had suggested at the time to use a mixture of gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide (GaAsP) would crack the code to visible light LEDs, even though his fellow scientists were adamant that it would not work. Despite the lack of support from his colleagues, Holonyak created the first visible light LED that glowed a faint red, and demonstrated it to his superiors at GE 50 years ago today.
Infrared LEDs already existed before this time, and LED research started all the way back in 1902, but this was the first demonstration of visible light. The next few years would see improvements in brightness, as well as the addition of other colors. GaAsP would become the precursor to the indium gallium nitride (InGaN) blue LEDs that we know and love today (the GaN blue LED was invented by Shuji Nakamura in 1993, and is regarded as the father of the white LED). The rest, as they say, is history. [Wired]