19 June 2012

Plug the firefly into the socket

Fireflies will help you find a replacement for LED lamps

Energysafe based on materials from Syracuse University:
SU researchers use nanotechnology to harness power of firefliesWhat do fireflies, nanorods and Christmas lights have in common?

Combining these diverse elements will make it possible to bring to the market multicolored light-emitting bands that do not require electricity for their work. Scientists from Syracuse University have found a way to use the natural light of fireflies. Their new technology may lead to the appearance of lighting systems free of electricity, batteries and fuel based on petroleum products in the very near future.

Chemists have learned to use the natural light emitted by fireflies (the so-called bioluminescence) using nanotechnology. Their breakthrough allows us to create a lighting system that will be 20-30 times more efficient than those created by their colleagues – and much more efficient than LED lamps. It's all about the size and structure of custom-made quantum nanorods, which are produced in the laboratory of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Matthew Maye and Candidate of Sciences Rebekah Alam. Their scientific work "Designing Quantum Rods for Optimized Energy Transfer with Firefly Luciferase Enzymes" (Designing Quantum Rods for Optimized Energy Transfer with Firefly Luciferase Enzymes) was published in the journal Nano Letters, which is one of the leading publications in the field of nanoscience.

"Firefly light is one of the best examples of bioluminescence,– says Maye. – The light emitted by the insect is very bright and effective. We have found a new way to use biology within non-biological applications by manipulating the interface between biological and non-biological components."

Fireflies emit light, which is the result of a chemical reaction between the light-emitting biological pigment luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. In Maye's lab, the enzyme attaches to the surface of the nanorods; luciferin, which is added later, acts as fuel. The energy that is released when the "fuel" and the enzyme interact is transferred to the nanorods, causing them to glow. This process is called resonant bioluminescence energy transfer (BRET).

"The whole trick is to increase the efficiency of the system. This can be achieved by reducing the distance between the enzyme and the rod surface and optimizing the rod architecture," says Maye. "We have developed a way to chemically fix a genetically modified luciferase enzyme directly on the surface of the nanorods."

The nanorods consist of an outer shell based on cadmium sulfide and an inner rod made of cadmium selenide. Both are semiconductor metals. Through a series of manipulations with the size of the rod and its length, it is possible to achieve a change in the color characteristics of the emitted light. The colors reproduced in the laboratory are not available to fireflies: Maya's nanorods glow green, orange and red. Fireflies emit yellowish light in their natural environment. The efficiency of the system is measured on the BRET scale. The most effective rods were created using a special architecture (the so-called rod-in-rod), and the light emitted by them is in the near infrared range. Infrared radiation has a longer wavelength than visible light and is invisible to human eyes. Infrared illumination is of primary importance for such things as night vision devices, cameras and imaging systems in medicine.

Maya and Alam's nanorods currently exist only in their chemical laboratory. Additional research is ongoing. Methods of maintaining chemical reactions and energy transfer for a longer time are being developed. Scientists are also going to "expand" the system. Maye believes that the system is of great importance for the development of the most promising technologies of the future. However, the idea that glowing nanorods will replace LED lamps is not science fiction.

"Nanorods are made from the same materials used in computer chips, solar panels and LED lamps," says Maye. "Maybe someday our nanorods can be screwed into ordinary light bulb cartridges, but electricity will no longer be needed."

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru19.06.2012

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