Nominee 2013

Energiesparende Festkörperchemie

Energy-saving solid state chemistry - New materials light up the world

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang Schnick (Spokesperson)
Dr. rer. nat. Peter J. Schmidt*
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München
*Philips Technologie GmbH, Aachen

(f.l.t.r.) Dr. rer. nat. Peter J. Schmidt, Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang Schnick

Conventional incandescent lamps waste energy; ordinary "energy-saving lamps" are unpopular due to other disadvantages. How can a lighting technology be developed that is energy efficient, environmentally-friendly and can be used for a variety of applications while creating entirely new ways of using light?

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schnick, Dr. Peter J. Schmidt and their teams found the answer to this question: they synthesized innovative fluorescent materials with which, for example, warm-white LEDs (light emitting diodes) can be manufactured for a variety of different applications with an unprecedented level of quality. The impacts are vast: if all conventional lamps were replaced by these novel light sources, total power consumption worldwide could be reduced up to 10%. Wolfgang Schnick holds the chair for Inorganic Solid State Chemistry at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, LMU, the University of Munich. Peter J. Schmidt is group leader for Material Research at the Lumileds Development Center of Philips Technologie GmbH in Aachen.

Incandescent bulbs are extremely inefficient. They only convert a negligible percentage of electricity into visible light - the rest is lost as heat. Consequently, the EU has banned the manufacture and sale of most incandescent bulbs. Electric discharge lamps, so-called energy-saving lamps, do not waste as much power, but have other disadvantages: they contain toxic mercury and the color rendering is often not optimal. For this reason, they are considered merely an interim solution. The future, experts agree, belongs to LEDs (light emitting diodes) that provide illumination from the excitation of electrons in solid-state semiconductor diodes. But: every single LED is only capable of emitting light of a certain color. In the past, producing high-quality white light with blended spectral primary colors was very difficult and expensive due to a lack of suitable materials.

While conducting fundamental research, the group of LMU scientists headed by Wolfgang Schnick stumbled upon a class of substances that solve this problem.

They replaced the oxygen atoms in naturally occurring silicates with nitrogen. This produced silicon nitrides: chemical compounds made of silicon and nitrogen, ecologically safe substances that are found in nearly inexhaustible quantities on earth. The scientists succeeded in endowing the substances with special properties: they are very robust and can be customized for use in light emitting diodes by adding foreign atoms and are capable for converting the light of blue LEDs into white light.

Philips Lumileds transferred the academic findings to an industrial application. The research scientists led by Peter J. Schmidt continued the development of the materials and technology and readied them for mass production. In the meantime, LEDs and LED lamps from Philips are already on the market. They are highly efficient, extremely long-lasting, affordable, and offer excellent color rendering. Silicon nitride luminous materials are also being developed in Aachen for what have been the most energy-efficient light emitting diodes, green and amber LEDs, which are used in turn signals for cars or traffic lights. The experts at Philips anticipate that LEDs based on silicon nitrides will revolutionize the lighting market - particularly since they are ideally suited to innovative illumination concepts: for example, the development of lamps whose light color can individually be set by the user.

The right to nominate outstanding achievements for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis is incumbent upon leading German institutions in science and industry as well as foundations.

The project “Energy Saving Solid-State Chemistry - Novel Materials Illuminate the World” was nominated by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - German Research Foundation.

more details


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang Schnick

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang Schnick

geboren in Hannover
Abitur, Beginn Chemie-Studium, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover
Chemie-Diplom, Universität Hannover
Promotion (summa cum laude) in Anorganischer Chemie, Betreuer: Prof. M. Jansen, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover
1986 – 1987
Hochschulassistent (C1), Anorganische Chemie, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover
1987 – 1988
Postdoktorand am Max-Planck-Institut für Festkörperforschung, Stuttgart
1988 – 1992
Hochschulassistent (C1) am Institut für Anorganische Chemie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Habilitation in Anorganischer Chemie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn , Rufangebot Professur (Lehrstuhl, C4) für Anorganische und Allgemeine Chemie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (abgelehnt)
1993 – 1998
Professor (Lehrstuhl, C4) für Anorganische Chemie, Universität Bayreuth
1998 – 2006
Professor (Lehrstuhl, C4) für Anorganische Festkörperchemie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
Rufangebot, wissenschaftliches Mitglied der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und Direktor am MPI für Metallforschung, Stuttgart (abgelehnt)
Rufangebot Professur (Lehrstuhl, W3) „Grundlagen keramischer Materialien“, Universität Stuttgart (abgelehnt)
seit 2006
Professor (Lehrstuhl, W3) für Anorganische Festkörperchemie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

Weitere Tätigkeiten:

2000 – 2001
Direktor des Department Chemie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
seit 2007
stellvertr. Direktor des Department Chemie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
seit 2005
gewähltes Mitglied im wissenschaftlichen Beirat bzw. Kuratorium des Fonds der Chemischen Industrie (FCI)
seit 2006
gewähltes Mitglied im Vorstand der Fachgruppe Festkörperchemie und Materialforschung der GDCh


Heisenberg-Stipendium, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG),
Dozentenstipendium, Fonds der Chemischen Industrie (FCI),
Akademie-Preis Chemie, Göttinger Akademie der Wissenschaften
Otto-Klung-Preis, Freie Universität Berlin
Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Preis, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Steinhofer-Preis, Universität Freiburg
seit 2002
Ordentliches Mitglied der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
seit 2006
Korrespondierendes Mitglied der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
Horst-Dietrich-Hardt-Preis, Universität des Saarlandes
Wilhelm-Klemm-Preis der GDCh
seit 2009
Ordentliches Mitglied der Deutschen Akademie der Naturforscher, Leopoldina, Halle
seit 2011
Ordentliches Mitglied des Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) der Universität München (LMU)

Dr. rer. nat. Peter J. Schmidt

Dr. rer. nat. Peter J. Schmidt

geboren in Freiburg i. Br.
Abitur, Zivildienst in Freiburg
Beginn Chemie-Studium, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Universität, Freiburg
Chemie-Diplom, Universität Freiburg
Promotion (summa cum laude) in Anorganischer Chemie bei Prof. G. Thiele, Universität Freiburg
1999 – 2007
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter Philips Technologie GmbH Forschungslaboratorien Aachen, tätig in der Leuchtstoffforschung für Festkörperlichtquellen
2008 - 2011
Principal Scientist bei Philips Research Europe, Aachen
Seit 2011
Gruppenleiter Materialforschung, Philips Technologie GmbH, Lumileds Development Center Aachen


Innovationspreis Philips Research
Innovationspreis Philips Research
Innovationspreis Philips Research
Innovationspreis Philips Research
Best Breakthrough Award, Philips Automotive Lighting



Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schnick
Department Chemie
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
Butenandtstrasse 5-13
81377 München
Tel.: +49 (0) 89 / 21 80 77 436


Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
Katrin Gröschel
Tel.: +49 (0) 89 / 21 80 32 54

Bernd Glaser
Philips Lighting
Tel.: +49 (0) 40 / 28 99 22 63

A description provided by the institutes and companies regarding their nominated projects

Energy Saving Solid-State Chemistry - Novel Materials Illuminate the World

The challenge: more efficient light sources
With the move towards sustainability, industry and society make every effort to develop greener and energy efficient technologies and processes. At present, light generation is consuming roughly 20 % of global electrical energy. As classical incandescent lamps are capable of converting only a minor proportion of the supplied energy into light, 90 – 95 % is wasted as heat. In line with a worldwide trend in environmental policies, the EU has taken measures to phase out production and distribution of classical light bulbs. As an alternative, a broad spectrum of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) have been commercialized. In comparison with incandescent lamps, CFLs show significantly longer lifetime and an up to four times higher energy efficiency. In spite of these advantages, CFLs are not really popular at present because their light is commonly not perceived as natural and their indispensible mercury content causes ecological issues with respect to waste disposal.

Light emitting diodes are the future
As a consequence, modern light emitting diodes (LEDs) are expected to be the light sources of the future. LEDs are based on semiconductor technology and each single emitter can produce only one single color tone. General lighting and illumination however requires white light containing all spectral colors (red, green and blue). Modern blue light emitting high-power LEDs, which became available in the 1990s, can be used for generation of white light by adding specific luminescent materials (phosphors). These LED-phosphors convert the initial blue emission partly into red and yellow-green light and finally, additive mixture of colors leads to white light with high quality.

From blue to white – highly efficient phosphors make it possible
A very large number of candidate materials for LED-phosphors has been tested by the lighting industry in recent years without meeting their ambitious requirement profiles. By chance, Prof. Schnick and his research team at LMU Munich have discovered a novel materials class of advanced LED-phosphors with unprecedented properties by exploiting their fundamental research approach. Accordingly, it was the innovative synthetic work of the chemists in Munich that created completely novel materials. Subsequently, a revolutionary technological breakthrough for application of LED-phosphors initiated when high efficiency with very high illumination quality as well as desired lifetime became possible for the first time.

High-performance ceramics as paradigm
The novel LED-phosphors are based on extraordinarily stable synthetic network structures made up of the chemical elements silicon and nitrogen. The rare-earth element europium has been added as an activator ion. Thus, these new tailor-made luminescent materials exhibit similarities to both natural minerals and synthetic high-performance materials on the basis of silicon nitride. The element nitrogen is responsible for the high stability and robustness of the resulting LED-phosphors. Furthermore, nitrogen facilitates conversion of the initial blue emission into all other spectral components of the visible spectrum and especially into red color tones. Conversion efficiency of these new materials is close to the theoretical maximum. As a further benefit, the new LED-phosphors are obtained from ecologically non-hazardous starting materials and the respective elements silicon and nitrogen occur in great abundance on our planet.

Prof. Schnick and his team have discovered their new materials by pure chance and as a result of their fundamental research. In the first instance the results have been published in scientific journals. However, the report immediately attracted the interest of the lighting industry. Thus, a close long-term cooperation with Philips Technology GmbH, Aachen arose where Dr. Peter Schmidt has been searching concurrently for new advanced LED-phosphors.

Superior light sources by novel materials
The productive collaboration of the LMU-chemists with the Philips-team resulted so far in more than a dozen patent applications and offered for the first time the perspective to broadly apply LED-technology for general illumination. With great efforts Philips has optimized manufacturing of Schnick`s novel LED-phosphors during the last years and achieved industrial production in very high quality. In the initial cooperation phase innovative LED products became feasible by means of the technology push of the novel luminescent nitride materials from LMU. In the most recent project period market pull more and more guided the search and development of next generation luminescent materials. Eventually, various LED-based light sources containing Schnick`s materials became commercially available, e. g. retrofit LED-lamps with E27-socket which resemble closely conventional light bulbs. They produce comfortable warm-white light with excellent color rendition. However, these state of the art LED-light sources consume 80 % less electrical energy than conventional light bulbs and have a warranted lifetime of more than 25.000 hours, corresponding to 15 years of practical use.

Additionally, the world’s most efficient amber emitting LED light sources have been developed by Philips on the basis of the materials discovered by the Schnick group. These LEDs are broadly applied in color tunable lamps, signaling, and automotive turn indicators. In addition, the most efficient green emitting LED is based on full conversion of blue LED emission by employing a LED-phosphor discovered by the Schnick group.

Global economic relevance
According to recent studies up to 16 % of global electrical energy could be saved by replacing traditional light sources by LED lighting combined with intelligent light control systems. In Germany alone, an electricity amount of about 600. Wh (= 600 TWh) is consumed per year. Complete conversion of light generation to LED-technology could result in energy saving of 96 TWh/y. This amount roughly corresponds to the output of all German nuclear plants in 2012. Long-term projections (McKinsey, 2012) are expecting a total volume of more than € 100 billion for the global lighting market in 2020. At that time, general illumination is expected to generate revenues of approximately € 80 billion with 70 % being attributed to LED-products.

From technological, economic and especially from an ecological impact, LED light sources are assessed to represent the most promising innovation in the clean tech segment. LEDs will be the dominant light sources of the future. Rather soon, they will push all rivals like incandescent lamps as well as fluorescent lamps out of the market. A comparable technology leap occurred at the end of the 1950th when the obsolescent electronic valve technique was replaced by modern solid-state transistors. Thus, Prof. Wolfgang Schnick at LMU Munich and Dr. Peter Schmidt at Philips in Aachen have significantly contributed to a revolutionary change of the lighting market by application of a completely new class of materials. And in the meantime, globally all major lighting companies are following their example.

About Ludwig Maximilian University Munich
Ludwig Maximilian University Munich (LMU) is building on a more than 500-year lasting tradition of scholarship and represents one of the leading universities in Europe. As one of the largest German universities LMU covers a broad spectrum of disciplines. The know-how and creativity of LMU's academics form the foundation of the University's outstanding research record. This is also reflected in LMU's designation of as a "university of excellence" in the context of the Excellence Initiative, a nationwide competition to promote top-level university research.

Further information:

About Philips
Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) is a diversified health and well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of healthcare, consumer lifestyle and lighting. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips posted 2012 sales of € 24.8 billion and employs approximately 116,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. The company is a leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications.

News from Philips is located at

The right to nominate outstanding achievements for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis is incumbent upon leading German institutions in science and industry as well as foundations.

The project “Energy Saving Solid-State Chemistry - Novel Materials Illuminate the World” was nominated by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - German Research Foundation.