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ECE Hall of Fame

Light-Emitting Diode (LED)

Holonyak and LEDs

Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54) was the first PhD student of Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen, and he has carried on Bardeen’s legacy as a semiconductor pioneer.  Working at General Electric in 1962, Holonyak developed the first practical, visible-spectrum light-emitting diode (LED), changing information display and lighting forever.

Today LEDs are all around us. Some of the most common applications include architectural lighting, traffic lights, flashlights, remote controls, large-scale displays, signage, and status indicators on devices like cell phones. 

Since joining the ECE faculty in 1963, Holonyak—along with his Illinois students and colleagues—has gone on to develop the quantum well laser, improvements for vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), and most recently, the transistor laser.