November 18, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Butterflies Invented LEDs First

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were a prized invention of physicists, improved greatly in 2001, but now we find butterflies invented them first.  We already knew that butterfly wings achieve their shimmering iridescence by means of photonic crystals (01/29/2003), as do some birds (10/13/2003), but now it appears that the butterflies have even more exotic tricks up their sleeves: they have true LEDs.
    Pete Vukusic of Exeter and Ian Hooper of MIT were startled to see the wings of African swallowtails shine super-bright under ultraviolet light.  They reported in Science this week that the photonic crystals absorb UV and re-radiate it in a blue-green portion of the visible spectrum where the butterfly’s eye is particularly sensitive.  Not only that, the photonic crystals are shaped in a cylindrical way to prevent side-scattering, are spaced for maximum effect, and contain reflective surfaces to focus the light straight out of the tubular shafts.  This makes them “all but identical in design to the LED,” said Vukusic.  Being able to emit powerful light without a semiconductor or power source makes the feat “doubly efficient in a way,” he said.  It’s not just an analogy calling this structure an LED, he explained – that is really how it works.  The researchers feel that their results will help engineers improve manmade devices.  “When you study these things and get a feel for the photonic architecture available, you really start to appreciate the elegance with which nature put some of these things together,” he said.  Sources: BBC News, MSNBC, LiveScience and News@Nature.

There was little mention of evolution in any of the papers, except that the BBC article stated that the butterflies “had been using this method for 30 million years,” and News@Nature mentioned in passing that the system had “evolved to direct the emitted light outwards” without venturing to say how.  All the evolutionists seemed so amazed that a butterfly figured this out.  Even Ker Than, Mr. Dogmatic Darwinist and ID-Basher, didn’t dare speculate about how this precision optical system evolved.  To top that, Nature, that Darwinese foghorn, actually subtitled their piece, “Butterflies shine brighter by design.”  Cowabunga!  Are they beginning to see the light?
    Think about the fact that a butterfly goes through an egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis stage.  In that last stage, all its guts are transformed into precision LEDs, flight software and hardware, vision, incredibly-sensitive olfactory systems and much, much more.
    Kids should get out with their butterfly nets and learn some creation science like they always have.  Only now, they should learn some physics and optical electronics, too.  Sounds like some good Science Fair material here.

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