The Air Force had already been working with DNA for other applications when they came to us and said, We know that you know how to make devices, quotes Steckl. They also knew that they had a good source of salmon DNA. It was a match made in heaven.
So began Steckls work with BioLEDs, devices that incorporate DNA thin films as electron blocking layers. Most of the devices existing today are based on inorganic materials, such as silicon. In the last decade, researchers have been exploring using naturally occurring materials in devices like diodes and transistors.
The driving force, of course, is cost: cost to the producer, cost to the consumer and cost to the environment Steckl points out, but performance has to follow.
And what a performance lights, camera, action!
DNA has certain optical properties that make it unique, Steckl says. It allows improvements in one to two orders of magnitude in terms of efficiency, light, brightness because we can trap electrons longer.
When electrons collide with oppositely charged particles, they produce very tiny packets of light called photons.
Some of the electrons rushing by have a chance to say hello, and get that photon out before they pass out, Steckl explains. The more electrons we can keep around, the more photons we can generate. Thats where the DNA comes in, thanks to a bunch of salmon.
BioLEDs make colors brighter.
DNA serves as a barrier that affects the motion of the electrons, says Steckl. It allows Steckl and his fellow researcher, the Air Forces Dr. James Grote, to control the brightness of the light that comes out.
The story continues, says Steckl, again smiling. Im receiving salmon sperm from researchers around the world wanting to see if their sperm is good enough. The next step is to now replace some other materials that go into an LED with biomaterials. The long-term goal is be able to
|Contact: Wendy Hart Beckman|
University of Cincinnati