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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Frederick Kish, 33

Hewlett-Packard

The next time you’re stopped at the new traffic light on the corner, give a little thought to Fred Kish. Chances are that the red light you’re staring at gets its brightness and color from the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) Kish played a lead role in inventing. Kish is one of the big reasons LEDs aren’t just for wristwatches and alarm clocks anymore.

When Kish joined HP in 1992, the company was struggling to convince customers to use its LEDs in a wide range of devices. The advantage was obvious: LEDs are solid-state devices that don’t burn out. The existing LEDs, however, weren’t bright enough to compete with conventional lighting. Kish changed that by bonding red-orange-yellow LED semiconductor wafers on a transparent substrate.

The results were the highest-performance red-orange-yellow LEDs ever produced. The invention propelled HP’s high-brightness LED products into a multimillion-dollar business. Most recently, HP and Philips Lighting formed a $150 million LED venture to compete head-to-head with conventional lighting. If LEDs do indeed light up our lives, it will be fair to say that Kish was one of those who struck the spark.

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