The 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics will be awarded to three inventors — two Japanese and one American — who helped create blue light emitting diode (LED) technology. Blue LED semiconductors paved the way for energy-efficient white LED lighting and enabled LED lighting to get cheaper, produce more high-quality light and break into the mainstream. The scientists are Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan (who worked together at the University of Nagoya), and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The news highlights just how important LED lighting has become. Here’s how the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, which awards the prize, described the lighting shift: “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.” In particular, the Academy highlighted the importance of LEDs to the off-grid developing world, pointing out that the 1.5 billion people who don’t have consistent access to the power grid can power long-lasting, energy-efficient LEDs with low-cost solar panels.