The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources".
Mikko Hakala's insight:
The Nobel prize website offers both the popular and the more detailed scientific background of blue LEDs.
Quoting from the latter: "GaN-based LEDs result from a long series of breakthroughs in basic materials physics and crystal growth, in device physics with advanced heterostructure design, and in optical physics for the optimization of the light out-coupling."
The effort was worth it. The luminosity [measured in lumens] / power [measured in watts] increases roughly as follows (from the popular article):
Light bulb, 1x
Fluorescent lamp, 4x
LED lamp, 19x
So roughly 20 times less energy consumed compared to light bulbs.
More detailed scientific background for blue LEDs:
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