This article examines the rise of gallium nitride as a major semiconductor material at the center of a new industry, solid-state lighting. It argues that the development of gallium nitride was shaped by the interplay of three contextual logics: material logic (the materiality of substances, tools, and fabrication techniques); market logic (the needs, demands, and interests of intended users); and competitive logic (the competitive tensions among laboratories, firms, and nations). For nearly forty years, chemists, physicists, and engineers in the United States and Japan struggled with the persistent material challenges presented by gallium nitride to meet the needs of potential markets in lighting and consumer electronics. Competition among firms and the technological and economic rivalry between the U.S. and Japan led to significant material developments and to the shaping of gallium nitride into a critical material for the manufacture of light emitting diodes. This article is intended to contribute to recent interest in the history of advanced materials and to the larger question of the determinants of innovation in technoscience.

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