When I was a kid I had a “bug box” – a small, homemade container built from wire mesh and a couple pieces of wood. During the summer I’d try to fill this box with lightning bugs –fireflies or glow bugs, depending on where you’re from– in the attempt to transform the small translucent container into a natural lantern full of the insects whose biological incandescence was nothing less than a minor miracle. It never quite worked as I imagined. In, retrospect, the whole endeavor seems like a fantasy fueled by too many cartoons.
Or perhaps not.
Recently an international team of researchers looked to the firefly for inspiration in designing more efficient lighting. Building on previous research into the chemical reactions that powered the glow bugs’ glow, the team focused on the insect’s exoskeleton, which features unique shingle-like surfaces that reduce internal reflection, thereby allowing more light to escape. Using lasers to recreate the shingle shapes on the surface of an LED, the researchers were able to create a 55% more efficient LED. This is only one of the many, many ways that insect biomimicry is improving our products and our lives.
Biomimicry is a design principle that looks to reproduce systems, behaviors, or effects observed in the nature. After all, what we stupid humans have been working on for a couple hundred years –at best!– nature has been developing for eons. READ MORE >>