Thursday, October 21, 2010

Biomimcry: Using Fireflies to Improve

If you don't know what biomimcry is, it's a way of learning from nature and using it's biological forms and ideas to solve our human problems.

It's kind of hard to think up a new or improved product using biomimcry. I've thought of  a couple different things, but they don't seem realistic or they've already been done. The first thought that came to mind when thinking about this assignment was using the flight and aerodynamics of bumblebees or humming birds to help make planes  more sufficient way of traveling. Of course, I started thinking more about it and it seemed that the aerodynamics of the bumblebee and that kind of nature have been incorporated into the structure of planes already.

I have another thought that may seem a little out there right now. But I got to thinking, what if we were able to use fireflies as a source of light? And I mean not capturing them and putting them in a jar for light bulbs. Seriously, what if we could generate and use the same chemical reactions that fireflies do to make light?

Not too long ago, I heard on the news that our energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs are actually "poisoning" us. Scientists call it "dirty electricity." The more energy efficient light bulbs in the house, the more you are in danger of worsening your health problems you may currently have. It's the CFL's that are making the electricity "dirty." And only especially when the light bulbs are done have reached their life span and are possibly broken. The CFL's are exposed and cause more harm.

To get away from all the bad talk, I was thinking of a new light bulb that would be just as energy efficient, but use the same technology or science as lightning bugs. This light bulb would be generating "clean electricity." If it comes from nature, I would sure hope it wouldn't hurt nature in return.

FireflyThe way that fireflies create their little light is by a chemical called luciferin, which makes an enzyme, luciferase. When oxygen comes into the picture and combines with the luciferin, it speeds up the reaction process, which happens in 2 steps:

1. Luciferin + ATP -------------> luciferin adenylate + PPi (pyrophosphate)
   (What happens here is that luciferin and ATP combine and create the luciferin adenylate and  pyrophosphate, which attaches to the luciferase enzyme)

2. Luciferyl adenylate +oxygen ----------------------> oxyluciferin + AMP + light
   (Here, the luciferyl adenylate combine with oxygen to make oxyluciferin and AMP and light is given off. Then the oxyluciferin and AMP are released from the enzyme.)

I was thinking that if we take these same chemical reactions from the firefly, we might be able to make a pretty sweet light bulb. We would have to adjust the wavelength of light though to see properly.

1 comment:

  1. Kristina -- this is a great post! Imaginative, interesting, a product concept that seems eminently sensible :)


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