Photo in the News: Glowing Butterflies Outshine LEDs

Photo: Butterflies glow with natural LED lights
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November 17, 2005—A hot new thing in high tech may actually be 30 million years old. Glow-in-the-light African swallowtail butterflies essentially have highly efficient LEDs embedded in their wings, according to a study co-authored by physicist Pete Vukusic (pictured above) that appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science. (Read the full story: "Glowing Butterflies Shine With Natural LEDs.")

Found in computer monitors, brake lights, flashlights, and other electronics, efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) were only recently perfected by humans. But the same basic structures that make the new technology possible—tiny mirror systems and crystals—have apparently been lighting up butterfly wings for millennia.

As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Alexei Erchak developed the first prototype "high-efficient LED" in 2001. His take on the butterfly discovery? It "means that butterflies are smarter than MIT students."

—Written by Ted Chamberlain, reported by John Roach

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