Scientists have developed a BioLED by packaging luminescent proteins in the form of rubber which renders the same effect as with traditional inorganic LEDs at a lower cost.
LEDs are manufactured using inorganic materials that are in short supply - such as cerium and yttrium - meaning that they are more expensive and difficult to sustain in the long run.
Additionally, white LEDs produce a colour that is not optimal for eyesight since they lack a red component that can psychologically affect individuals exposed to them for long periods of time.
The researcher's technique consists in introducing luminescent proteins into a polymer matrix to produce luminescent rubber.
This technique involves a new way of packaging proteins which could end up substituting the technique used to create LEDs.
"We have developed a technology and a hybrid device called BioLED that uses luminescent proteins to convert the blue light emitted by a 'normal' LED into pure white light," said Ruben D Costa, from the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany.
"It is always necessary to have either a blue or an ultraviolet LED to excite the rubbers that are put over the LED in order to make it white. In other words, we can combine blue LED/green rubber/red rubber, or ultraviolet LED/blue rubber/green rubber/red rubber," the researchers said.
The result is the first BioLED that gives off a pure white light created by similar parts of the colours blue, green and red, all while maintaining the efficiency offered by inorganic LEDs.
The blue or ultraviolet LEDs are much cheaper than white ones, which are made of an expensive and scarce material known as YAG:Ce (Cerium-doped Yttrium Aluminium Garnet). The idea is replace it by proteins, researchers said.
"The Bio-LEDs are simple to manufacture and their materials are low-cost and biodegradable, meaning that they can easily be recycled and replaced," said Costa, while also highlighting the high stability of these proteins that have "luminescent properties that remain intact during the months of storage under different environmental conditions of light, temperature and humidity."
The findings were published in the journal Advanced Materials.