Sometimes, a trick gets pulled off better in nature than it does in a laboratory. That might be the case with new research claiming fireflies' unique lanterns can be reverse-engineered for LED lights, making the bulbs as much as 55 percent more efficient.
We've seen scientists get the idea to mimic the insect's chemical reaction, but this project deals with their also-impressive structure. This is how the researchers--a team from Belgium, France, and Canada--explained the process in a statement:
So the team took a gallium nitride LED, added a coat of light-sensitive material, then used lasers to recreate the roof shape they saw in the fireflies. Voila, they report in two papers today, out in the journal Optics Express: an LED that is up to 55 percent better at its job.
The team admits it's not the first time nature-inspired techniques aped by humans have improved LEDs, but they also claim this is the biggest increase in efficiency ever gained with a technique like it. Next up: reverse-engineering a different species of firefly that might be even more efficient.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.