Three university researchers, two in Japan and one in the United States, have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention in the early 1990s of the blue light-emitting diode (LED), an energy efficient breakthrough in producing longer-lasting white light.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Science's award goes to Japanese-born Isamu Akasaki (Nagoya University and Meijo University) and Hiroshi Amano (Nagoya) and American-born Shuji Nakamura of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Formally, the shared $1.1 million prize goes to the men for "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources."

+ ALSO on NetworkWorld:Most colorful networking story EVER! | 2014 Ig Nobel Prize winners | Why there's no Nobel Prize in Computing +

Their semiconductor work advanced LEDs, which in red and green forms couldn't produce white light, as the blue LEDs can. Their work has helped start the transformation from incandescent light bulbs to LED lamps for many purposes, from street lights to holiday lights.

According to the Nobel Prize organization: "White LED lamps emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient. They are constantly improved, getting more efficient with higher luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input power (measured in watt). The most recent record is just over 300 lm/W, which can be compared to 16 for regular light bulbs and close to 70 for fluorescent lamps. As about one fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, the LEDs contribute to saving the Earth's resources. Materials consumption is also diminished as LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights."