First reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, a group of South Korean scientists achieved a breakthrough in LED technology by examining one of nature’s wonders.
Through careful study of the firefly’s radiant abdomen, Ki-Hun Jeong of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science discovered that the insect’s nanostructure was very similar to the construction of LED bulbs, with one small, yet important difference. Unlike the smooth lantern structure of a LED, a firefly’s exoskeleton has ridges that allow greater transmittance of visible light wavelengths.
The scientists then fabricated LEDs with a honeycomb lattice similar to that of the firefly with nanopillars.
The result? A 98% improvement in emittance, which doubles brightness or efficiency, depending on how you look at it. While these tests simulated the wavelength (i.e. color) of a firefly’s light, the nanostructure could easily be adapted to other, more useful wavelengths. Additionally, this innovation could make the production of LEDs less expensive, by eliminating the need for anti-reflective coating.
As this breakthrough filters down to readily available products, expect those big LED lights you use in the field to be brighter, cheaper, and eventually powered by some spare Duracells.