|Scales on firefly abdomen
Light emitting diodes, or leds, have rapidly taken over
the lighting market. These solid-state devices are small, rugged and efficient. They produce much less heat than standard
light bulbs and do not have a fragile filament. Leds are available as strings of Christmas lights, and are combined in auto
headlamps and flashlights. Still, there is always room for technical improvement and fireflies provide a next important step.
in Belgium study the light-emitting details of fireflies. This amazing insect produces its light by mixing chemicals in its
abdomen. Close inspection of the insect reveals a surprise: It’s outside surface is coated with jagged scales, somewhat
like the overlapping shingles on a roof. In the figure shown, the indicated length of 10μm (10 microns) is one hundred
times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair. Instead of interfering with light emission, the
scales are found to increase light output, especially along the edges of the scales.
The researchers similarly coat
the outside surfaces of commercial led bulbs with scales by etching them, or scratching, with a laser beam. The result is
an instant increase in led output by up to 55 percent. This improvement can easily be applied both to existing and new leds.
Apparently the surface structure minimizes the loss of light by internal reflections, whether inside the firefly or the led
bulb. The treated surface behaves similarly to the anti-reflective coating on the lens of
Thanks are due to fireflies for advancing our understanding of light and teaching us how to produce more
efficient light emitting diodes. Such practical ideas in nature do not appear by chance. Instead, they long ago were put in
place for our eventual discovery and benefit. Fireflies, along with every other living and nonliving item in nature, large
and small, declare the planning and purpose of our Creator. As Job 12:7 states, “But ask the animals, and they will
teach you…the hand of the Lord has done this…”
Bay, Annick, et al., 2013. Optimal overlayer inspired by Photuris firefly improves light-emitting efficiency of existing