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LED symposium honors Holonyak and his invention

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By Tom Moone, ECE ILLINOIS
October 29, 2012

  • October 24 was the start of a two-day symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the demonstration of the visible light-emitting diode.
  • The 250 participants attended more than 50 sessions on the history and future of LED technology.
  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed October 24 to be Nick Holonyak Day in Illinois.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left) presented Nick Holonyak Jr. with the proclamation declaring October 24, 2012, to be Nick Holonyak Day in Illinois.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left) presented Nick Holonyak Jr. with the proclamation declaring October 24, 2012, to be Nick Holonyak Day in Illinois.

On October 24, more than 250 participants gathered for the start of the two-day LED 50th Anniversary Symposium that commemorated the demonstration of the visible light-emitting diode (LED) in 1962 by its inventor, ECE alumnus and Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54).

There were more than 45 talks that covered the history of the LED, as well as the future outlook for this device.

After opening remarks by Anthony Maher of Belmondo Capital, Holonyak gave his own take on the history of his invention. The visible LED had its roots at General Electric, where Holonyak worked in the early 1960s. It was in October of 1962 that Holonyak first demonstrated his invention.

Many participants at this symposium had been students in Holonyak’s lab. And many of these students are now leaders in the field of LED research and manufacturing.

The talks and sessions were organized by the Technical Committee: M. George Craford, SSL Fellow, Philips Lumileds; Russell D. Dupuis, Chaddick Endowed Chair, Georgia Institute of Technology; Milton Feng, Holonyak Jr. Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Fred A. Kish, senior vice president, Infinera; Anthony Maher, managing director, Belmondo Capital; Donald Scifres, CEO, SDL Capital; Masanobu Yamamoto, director, Sony.

Other participants at the symposium included Zhores Alferov (via video), vice president of the Russian Academy of Science and a Nobel Laureate; Anthony Leggett, Illinois professor of physics and a Nobel Laureate; Mike Krames of Soraa; Henry Pao, founder and CEO of Supertex; and Kenichi Iga, president of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

One highlight of the event was a visit by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn presented a proclamation declaring October 24, 2012, Nick Holonyak Day. Quinn said, “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. We’re here today to honor someone really special, who understood the importance of education, the importance of research. One of the most profound and important things Nick has done for our world [was] inventing a technology that has really changed our world. It showed the world in a whole new light.”

In addition local state representative Naomi Jackobson presented a resolution from the state legislature recognizing Holonyak and his accomplishments.

Nick Holonyak Jr. (left) and Moira Gunn shara a laugh during their interview held as part of the lunch program on October 24.
Nick Holonyak Jr. (left) and Moira Gunn shara a laugh during their interview held as part of the lunch program on October 24.

A second highlight of the first day was an interview between Moira Gunn, host of the public radio program Tech Nation, and Holonyak following lunch. The audience was able to hear more details about Holonyak’s background; his interactions with his friend and mentor, John Bardeen; and the invention of the visible LED.

In addition, a collection of artworks by German artist Emil Schult were displayed in the I Hotel on the first day of the symposium. The works celebrated the achievements of Holonyak and Bardeen.

The celebration of the LED continued into the Homecoming football game the following Saturday. Holonyak and his accomplishments were recognized by the announcer during halftime, and at the end of the game, more than 30,000 LED flashlights were distributed to the game’s attendees.

The symposium was presented by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was sponsored by the College of Engineering, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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