Nature solves problems either with clever trickery or by brute force. If an animal needs to evolve to fill a niche, then it will evolve into that niche if it wants to survive. This is handy both for building highly specialized species and also for giving scientists ideas to swipe to improve the stuff we’re making, and a bunch of Korean scientists have just vastly improved LEDs by cribbing from fireflies.
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are everywhere because they’re bright, they’re small, they sip power instead of guzzling it, and they’re cheap. But they could also stand to be much brighter, so a research team started looking at fireflies. It turns out that fireflies have “tiles” on their lanterns that allow them to reduce the refractive index. For those who don’t study the physics of light, when light goes from one substance, like a firefly’s butt, to another, like the open air, it loses some energy in the transition. The closer the refractive index of those two substances match, the less energy the light loses and thus the brighter it shines.
So, by copying that tile structure and layering it on LEDs, the scientists found the light emitted was much brighter. While they still need to refine the process, and scale it up for manufacturing, this will lead to better, brighter lights. So when you catch fireflies, feed the little guys, or if you’re going to make like Shailene Woodley, eat some other kind of bug.