The trick was changing the scope of the interactions between the luciferin and the luciferase, according to Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry at Syracuse. The team attached genetically modified luciferase to a core of nanorods made from cadmium-based semiconductor material. These are similar to quantum dots, but in this case they're quantum rods. Then the researchers added the luciferin, which serves as a fuel for the fiery glow. When the chemicals interact, they release energy, which is transferred to the nanorod. That's what actually makes the nanorod glow.