Sir Colin Humphreys CBE FREng FRS

Colin Humphreys is a materials scientist who has carried out valuable work on the electron microscopy of semiconducting materials. His world-leading research on gallium nitride (GaN) has resulted in a substantially improved understanding of this important material with a wide range of technological applications.

In addition to its potential use within transistors as a next-generation alternative to silicon, GaN emits a brilliant light that makes it an ideal candidate for use in energy-saving LEDs. Colin has pioneered the development of low-cost, high-efficiency GaN-on-silicon (or ‘GaN-on-Si’) LEDs, which are now being manufactured based on his patented research. GaN LED lighting could save the United Kingdom £2 billion per year in electricity costs.

In parallel with his scientific career, Colin has devoted considerable time and effort to communicating materials science to lay audiences. This work led to his being awarded a CBE in January 2003 for services to science as a researcher and communicator, followed by a knighthood in 2010. Since 1996, he has also been a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Professional position

  • Court and Past Master, Armourers & Brasiers' Company
  • Emeritus Professor, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge
  • Tribology Trust Awards Committee, The Institution Of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
  • International Review Panel, Japan Society For The Promotion Of Science
  • International Science Advisory Board, The Photon Science Institute
  • Trustee, Link House Trust
  • International Scientific Advisory Panel, Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy, Monash University
  • Fellow, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
  • Director, Rolls-Royce University Technology Partnership in Advanced Materials
  • Liveryman, Goldsmiths' Company
  • Professor of Materials Science, The School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London

Subject groups

  • Engineering

    Engineering, semiconductors, Materials science (incl materials engineering)

  • Chemistry

    Chemistry, materials

  • Other

    Public understanding of science, Science policy


  • Royal Medals

    For excelling in basic and applied science, university-industry collaboration, technology development and transfer, academic leadership, promotion of public understanding of science, and advising on science to public bodies.

Sir Colin Humphreys CBE FREng FRS
Elected 2011