Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar Series

Nitrides: Past, Present and Future: From the Invention of LEDs to Predicting Earthquakes


Professor Sir Colin Humphreys


School of Engineering and Materials Science Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom

Time & Place

Thu, 19 Sep 2019 13:00:00 NZST in A3 Lecture Theatre


The unifying theme of this seminar is the importance of serendipity (happy accidents!) in science, which I have had the good fortune to experience. We start with the accidental invention of red LEDs by Nick Holonyak. Then move on to the quest for blue and white LEDs and the lucky success of GaN. The key GaN question was why InGaN/GaN quantum well LEDs are so bright when the dislocation density is so high. How we showed that the universally believed answer to this question was wrong. Finding the correct answer and the remarkable carrier localisation in InGaN. Exploiting our GaN LEDs on Silicon research. The use of machine learning to optimise the structure of GaN LEDs. The application of machine learning to predict earthquakes.


Professor Sir Colin Humphreys CBE FRS FREng. Colin is Professor of Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London; Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge; and a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was knighted in 2010 for “services to science”. He founded the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride (GaN) and set up two spin-off companies to exploit the research of his group on low-cost LEDs for home and office lighting. The companies were acquired by Plessey, which is manufacturing LEDs based on this technology at their factory in Plymouth, UK. He founded the Cambridge/Rolls-Royce Centre for Advanced Materials for Aerospace. Materials developed in the Centre are now flying in Rolls-Royce engines. He recently set up a new company, Paragraf, to exploit the research of his group on graphene, which promises to revolutionise a wide range of products including sensors, solar cells and electronic devices. Paragraf moved into premises in 2018, is already employing 21 people and has filed 8 patents. Its first product is a Hall effect sensor for measuring magnetic fields. In his limited spare time he writes on science and religion and is the author of The Miracles of Exodus (Harper Collins, 2003), which has been translated into German and Portuguese and has an Audio edition, and The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus. (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which has been translated into Russian, German, Portuguese, Japanese and Greek, and has a South Asian edition.