Jan. 8, 2013 at 1:50 PM ET
Within a few years, light emitting diodes, or LEDs, may be brighter thanks to an updated design based on fireflies — the insects that glow in the night to attract mates much to the delight of children everywhere.
While studying the insects, researchers identified a pattern of jagged scales on the insects' bodies that boosts the amount of light emitted by their lanterns. The team mimicked that jagged scale structure in the coating of an LED and found it boosted light extraction by up to 55 percent.
The technique is a straightforward process, according to Annick Bay, a Ph.D. student at the University of Namur in Belgium and co-author of two papers describing the discovery and manufacturing technique in the journal Optics Express.
“We don’t have to create new LEDs,” she said in a news release. “With a few more steps we can coat and laser pattern an existing LED.”
LEDs are making strong inroads in the lighting market as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs, which are being phased out in the U.S., and compact fluorescent bulbs.
According to Bay and colleagues, with achievable modifications to current manufacturing techniques, it should be possible to apply these design enhancements to current LED production within a few years.