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Syracuse University researchers use nanotechnology to harness power of fireflies
Date:6/15/2012

What do fireflies, nanorods and Christmas lights have in common? Someday, consumers may be able to purchase multicolor strings of light that don't need electricity or batteries to glow. Scientists in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences found a new way to harness the natural light produced by fireflies (called bioluminescence) using nanoscience. Their breakthrough produces a system that is 20 to 30 times more efficient than those produced during previous experiments.

It's all about the size and structure of the custom, quantum nanorods, which are produced in the laboratory by Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry in SU's College of Arts and Sciences; and Rabeka Alam, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate. Maye is also a member of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute.

"Firefly light is one of nature's best examples of bioluminescence," Maye says. "The light is extremely bright and efficient. We've found a new way to harness biology for nonbiological applications by manipulating the interface between the biological and nonbiological components."

Their work, "Designing Quantum Rods for Optimized Energy Transfer with Firefly Luciferase Enzymes," was published online May 23 in Nano Letters and is forthcoming in print. Nano Letters is a premier journal of the American Chemical Society and one of the highest-rated journals in the nanoscience field. Collaborating on the research were Professor Bruce Branchini and Danielle Fontaine, both from Connecticut College.

Fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction between luciferin and its counterpart, the enzyme luciferase. In Maye's laboratory, the enzyme is attached to the nanorod's surface; luciferin, which is added later, serves as the fuel. The energy that is released when the fuel and the enzyme interact is transferred to the nanorods, causing them to glow. The process is called Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET).

"The trick to increasing the efficiency o
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Contact: Judy Holmes
jlholmes@syr.edu
315-443-8085
Syracuse University
Source:Eurekalert

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