A team of scientists from Syracuse University are using nanotechnology to harness the natural bioluminescence of fireflies in order to create lighting that doesn’t need any energy to glow! By using nanotechnology, the team believe that they can create a natural bioluminescent lighting system that is 20 to 30 times more efficient than any previously made.

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Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Rabeka Alam, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate, have discovered that the size and structure of custom, quantum nanorods could hold the key.

In their paper “Designing Quantum Rods for Optimized Energy Transfer with Firefly Luciferase Enzymes”, which was published online in Nano Letters, they explain their plan to harness the  chemical reaction between luciferin and its counterpart, the enzyme luciferase which causes fireflies to glow.

The team attached the manipulated luciferase enzyme to the nanorod’s surface allowing it to act as a fuel. The energy that was released when the fuel and the enzyme interacted was then transferred to the nanorods, causing them to glow. The process is known as Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET).

“Firefly light is one of nature’s best examples of bioluminescence,” Maye said a press statement. “The light is extremely bright and efficient. We’ve found a new way to harness biology for nonbiological applications by manipulating the interface between the biological and nonbiological components.”

“The trick to increasing the efficiency of the system is to decrease the distance between the enzyme and the surface of the rod and to optimize the rod’s architecture,” Maye added. “We designed a way to chemically attach genetically manipulated luciferase enzymesdirectly to the surface of the nanorod.”

The nanorods are composed of an outer shell of cadmium sulfide and an inner core of cadmium seleneide and by manipulating the size of the core, and the length of the rod, the team were able to alter the color of the produced light. While the technology is currently restricted to the laboratory, Maye and Alam believe it will be very simple to scale up the system and use glowing nanorods as substitutes forLED lights.

“The nanorods are made of the same materials used in computer chips, solar panels and LED lights,” Maye added. “It’s conceivable that someday firefly-coated nanorods could be inserted into LED-type lights that you don’t have to plug in.”

That should save on lighting costs!

+ Syracuse University

via Science Daily

Images:  Syracuse University and  art farmer