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Holiday dedicated to inventor of LED lights

Governor Pat Quinn recently dedicated October 24 to Nick Holonyak Jr., the University of Illinois professor who invented the first LED lighting 50 years ago, according to The News-Gazette. The day was proclaimed "Nick Holonyak, Jr. Day" and some of the events celebrating Holonyak Jr.'s invention include the two-day symposium, "LED: 50 years," held at the I Hotel.

"We are in the presence of greatness today," Governor Quinn announced at the symposium, with Holonyak, Jr. in attendance. "Nick Holonyak understands the importance of education, the importance of research. If students are well-educated, they can create things we never dreamed of."

At the symposium, experts noted that with the cost of LED lights dropping and quality improving, more and more people in the mainstream will start to use them. According to the news report, more than half of all new light fixtures sold in the United States by 2015 will be based on LED lighting technology.

That number would be a far cry from the world that Holonyak, Jr. lived in back when he first invented the technology in 1962. According to Wired Magazine, the only light emitted from LEDs in the early 1960s was infrared and this sparked a race among scientists to produce a visible LED.

By mixing gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide (GaAs phosphide), Holonyak was able to create a GaAs phosphide crystal that emitted a red glow, the news source reports. With unbridled ambition and foresight, Holonyak went on to predict that LED lighting would eventually replaced incandescent bulb types, a prediction that inches ever closer to fulfillment today.