When engineers look to the natural world for inspiration, it always ends up in interesting discoveries and inspiring designs. Ki-Hun Jeong from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology is no different. He studied firefly lanterns to discover a way of increasing the amount of light an LED emits.
Along with a team of engineers, Jeong observed that on the outside of a firefly's lantern there is a surface of tiles which make up a nanostructure that allows more light to be emitted. In the Nano Letters the group released, they say:
Many animal species employ conspcious traits as courtship signals for successful mating. Fireflies utilize their bioluminescent light as visual courtship signals. In addition to efficient bioluminescent light emission, the structural compononents if the firefly latern also contribute to the enhancement of conspicuous optical signaling.
Recently, these firefly latern ultrastructures have attracted much interest and inspired highly efficient light management management approaches.
The team found that the hierarchical ultrastructures found in an actual firefly (Pyrocoelia rufa) emits a light that could be compared to our designed highly efficient organic light-emitting diode (OLED). Using the animal as an inspiration, they were able to formulate their own OLED with the microstructures similar to the natural design of the firefly to ensure OLED emitting light that is 61% stronger than current OLEDs.
Jeong hopes this discovery can lead to use in TV and cell phone displays. In theory, screens would emit more brightness but use less power than the current screens in the world do today.