Abstract: How Well Does Knowledge Travel? The Transition from Energy to Commercial Application of Laser Diode Fabrication Technology

Hiroshi Shimizu and Satoshi Kudo


This essay uses the example of laser diode fabrication technology to examine how certain scientific knowledge made the transition between nations over time and how this knowledge came to be utilized in applications not originally envisaged by its developers. We explore how scientific knowledge produced through U.S. Department of Energy research made the transition from the United States to Japan via defense research, where it flourished in mass market applications. Specifically, we focus on the role played by academic societies, journals, and research communities, using the case of metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) technology—one of the techniques used in laser diode manufacture—to explain how this technology came to be used in compact disc players. We show that competition in domestic markets, explicit knowledge, and elaborative research influenced how certain knowledge travelled internationally.

BEH On-Line Paper