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The History of UV in LEDS


From a flash of green to the latest innovation in the UV scene, the history of LEDs is an adventure to enjoy!

The journey of the light emitting diode (LED), began in 1907, where British engineer, Henry Joseph Round first noticed a brief flash of light while working with semiconductor diodes.  Henry Round, or more appropriately, Captain Round as he was known during World War I, was best known for his involvement in pioneering the vacuum tube radio transmitter initially.  It was through his work with these radio transmitters that Captain Round first saw, The Light!  He sent his findings as a Letter to the Editors to Electrical World but never officially published his observation.


Image courtesy of Electronics Weekly


Twenty years later, in Russia, a young radio technician, Oleg Losev, is working with semiconductor devices.  Losev also notices the same green flash that Captain Round noticed in 1907!  However, young Losev, an up-and-coming physicist, despite not completing his formal education, devoted abundant time to understanding these findings and even how the light could be used.  Losev successfully published his observations and recommendations for potential uses in a Russian journal that has been lost to the ages and was unfortunately overlooked during his time as well.  He passed away during World War II before he could continue his work.


Image courtesy of Alcherton.com


In 1952, Professor Kurt Lechovec was becoming a pionner in LED technology by basing his work on that of Oleg Losev.  Professor Lechovec, a Czech Republic native, was emigrated to the United States in 1947 under Operation Paperclip during World War II.  Lechovec would be credited with the invention of the colored LEDs in 1952.  His work with the United States Signal Corps, Sprague Electric Company, and the University of Southern California led to incredible discoveries in the field of semiconductors.  Interestingly, his work would directly support the LED work of another World War II survivor, Egon Loebner.


Image courtesy of the IT History Society


Egon Loebner, an Auschwitz survivor from the Czech Republic, was a liaison for the United States Army before applying for a student visa to study at the School of Engineering at the University of Buffalo in New York.  Loebner continued the growth of LEDs through his discoveries of different compound combinations while at Radio Corporation of America (RCA) Laboratories in 1958.  Loebner, in his autobiography manuscript, “To Heaven Through Hell: An Autobiography of an Auschwitz Graduate who Found his Destiny in Silicon Valley”, he makes mention of, “…the semiconductor revolution and how I became drawn in switching from ZnS to GaP” and “earning my spurs in chemistry – discovering new compounds”.


Image courtesy of Remembering.com


The compound combinations Loebner discovered unlocked greater efficiencies and opportunities for outputs.  Loebner went on to continue his career supporting LED technology at Hewlett Packard, encouraging LEDs to be applied to “environmental problems and medical instrumentation”.

In 1961, after working for four years on a United States Air Force contract to create “low noise parametric amplifiers use in X-band (10 GHz) radar receivers” at Texas Instruments per Dr. James Biard, Dr. Gary Pittman and Dr. Biard discovered and developed the infrared LED.  In 1962, it was announced that the LED bulbs were available for “experimental engineering evaluation” before its release as a hemispherical LED in 1963.  This was a major turning point in the era of digital watches.



Image courtesy of Edison Tech Center


During 1962, Dr. Nick Holonyak, born in a small town in southern Illinois, invented the first laser light diode at General Electric (GE) having previously created the first visible semiconductor laser in 1960.  This LED light was in red but earned him the title “Father of LEDs”.  His work continued at the University of Illinois until his retirement in 2013.  Holonyak passed away in 2022.


Image courtesy of General Electric


Early adopters of LED technology included IBM in 1964, who adopted the technology into the circuit boards of their early computers and HP in 1968.

In 1972, Dr. Herbert Paul Maruska at RCA Laboratories created the first non-elemental blue LED light with Magnesium.  “It lit up and I came back and shined the blue light at everybody.  Everybody was very impressed,” were the words Maruska spoke when asked about his invention.  Unfortunately, RCA Laboratories collapsed trying to compete with IBM which effectively halted the successful blue LED project in 1974.  His work would lead directly to the Nobel Prize winning bright blue LED and white LED work of his future peers.


Image courtesy of IEEE Spectrum


Dr. Jacques Pankove, born in the Ukraine, immigrated to the United States after the Nazi occupation of his home in France during World War II.  He worked on the LED project with Dr. Maruska at RCA Laboratories.  Dr. Pankove went on to write Optical Processes in Semiconductors and edit several volumes and journals.  He passed away in 2016.



Image courtesy of the National Academy of Engineering


Meanwhile, in 1972, rural Iowa native Dr. M. George Craford invented the yellow LED at while at the Monsanto Chemical Company.  Later, Dr. Craford would continue his work in various tech companies including as Philips Lumileds Lighting Company’s Chief Technical Officer.  Dr. Craford created brighter versions of other color LED lights and invented the red and red-orange LED lights.  His works earned him the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering along with several other prestigious designations for his contributions to lighting technology.


Image courtesy of IEEE Spectrum


During the 1980’s, Japan began focusing on the potential of UV emitting diodes for use in curing acrylics in industrial situations during manufacturing.

In 1992, our friends in Japan successfully created the first UV-emitting diode for LEDs with 1% efficiency!  Nichia Chemical Industries kicked off the beginning of major changes in agriculture, sanitation, and eventually the exotic community!

Seven years later, in 1993, Dr. Isamu Akaski, and Dr. Hiroshi Amano develop high quality gallium nitride blue LEDs.  Dr. Akaski and Amano worked with electrical engineer Shuji Nakamura while he was working for Nichia to create the brightest blue LED and then the first white LED light!  Nakamura realized that the quality of the materials was the most important!  The same year of the discovery and invention of the white LED light, Nichia Company announced the invention publicly.  Their work earned all three gentlemen the Nobel Prize in Physics.


Image courtesy of The Asahi Shimbun


Nearly 10 years later, in 2002, the first UVC LED becomes available on the market.  In 2008, UV Process Supply and Phoseon release the first UV-LED systems to the public and the industry takes off and grows!

VivTech Products launched their SurSun UVA/UVB LED light in 2021 specifically for reptile and exotic animal use.  This was the start of an incredible journey in husbandry innovation.  Every year, greater improvements are made in efficiencies and outputs with VivTech Products continuing to dedicate ourselves to improving our products for your husbandry needs!