Awarded almost 3 million euros of funds within the European program FET-OPEN (Frontier Emerging Technologies) framework, the ENABLED project aims to create a new generation of colour filters based on fluorescent proteins genetically enhanced to reach the performance needed for LED lighting.
Today, LED lamps consist of a blue-emitting chip and an optical filter made of inorganic phosphors, rare earth minerals that transforms blue light into white light. This filter does not efficiently convert blue light, causing serious implications on visual acuity in children and sleep disorder in adults. Moreover, inorganic phosphors are quite scarce and localized in a few countries, they are listed as one of the 27 critical raw materials by the European Union. And if global demand for LEDs rises as expected, analysts anticipate that global reserves of inorganic phosphor will run out in 10-15 years.
Hence the ENABLED project involving researchers from Spain, Italy and Austria will seek to replace inorganic phosphor filters in LEDs by bio-engineered fluorescent proteins inspired from those found deep down the sea. Three out of four sea creatures produce high power light using protein filters for hunting, communication or self-protection purposes. One major hurdle for the practical use of such proteins in LED lighting is to preserve them outside their aquatic environment.
So far, the Spanish research group led by Prof. Costa at IMDEA Materials Institute has managed to stabilize these fluorescent proteins in a plastic matrix without compromising their excellent brightness. This new technology called Bio-LED was proven to remain stable for up to 6 months. Another approach now under investigation is to create artificial fluorescent proteins for lighting. These artificial proteins would be designed to combine the stability (photo and thermal) of artificial emitters while preserving the protein skeletons. The idea would be to use genetically modified bacteria such as E. Coli to produce the artificial fluorescent proteins in a sustainable way for use in the next generation of Bio-LEDs.
This multidisciplinary project involves computational experts, biochemists, chemists, synthetic biologists and optoelectronic professionals.
IMDEA Materiales – www.materiales.imdea.org