Light emitting diodes, called L-E-Ds are found everywhere today. They light up the numbers in digital clocks and watches and all kinds of electronic equipment.
Now, scientists have discovered that LEDs can be intensified by using biological materials – notably, salmon sperm.
It is loaded with DNA – there is DNA everywhere but ideally you want a starting point that is very rich in DNA.
Dr. Andrew Steckl is one of the world’s leading experts in photonics at the University of Cincinnati.
His research team, in collaboration with US Air Force scientists, has used salmon sperm to make what appears to be a superior LED lighting device. The magic stems from the double helix shape of its DNA.
The double helix has some interesting properties in regard to light emission which is not well known by the general public but is known by some practitioners. Because of the way it is shaped, you can insert light emitting molecules within it that operate more efficiently than in other host materials.
Salmon sperm is the first material ever used for bio-LEDs. Steckl says it comes from wild salmon from Japan, where sperm is widely harvested for its DNA.
It is refined into pure fibers that Steckl’s lab turns into thin DNA films of tightly controlled dimensions that produce light. Steckl says the organic material is abundant and readily available – and it reduces the need for heavy metals and or other hazardous materials.
This is not the sort of material that people have a lock on – in other words, it’s not a mine somewhere in some country that produces that particular metal. People in the semi-conductor and in flat panel display industries are quite concerned that certain specialty metals that are critical to device fabrication are going to begin to run out. And this is not 100 years from now, this is maybe as soon as 10 years from now.
Steckl says the trend towards biomimetics, or mimicking nature – is inevitable.
To me personally it is a powerful argument that we have one of the biggest and most competitive industries in America in agriculture and fishing and it produces a huge amount of biomaterials which can be used in many different ways.
Dr Andrew Steckl is interested in collaborating with Alaska’s seafood industry. Find him at the nano-lab at the University of Cincinnati.