Chemical Action, What's Your Reaction?
What Makes the Flash of Light?
What do you think causes the light on a firefly? A French physiologist Raphael
Dubois studied the light producing cells of the firefly in the late 19th
century (1887), and observed that there are two chemicals that interact to
produce the bioluminescence. He discovered that fireflies
have a chemical called luciferin (meaning "lucifer" or "light
bearing" in Latin), which reacts with another enzyme called luciferase to
create the bioluminescence, when air comes through holes in the firefly's
Click to Enlarge
Say's firefly (Pyractomena angulata)
Credit: Arwin Provonsha,
Purdue Department of Entomology
Thanks to the Firefly
Today, these chemicals are used in research for cancer, multiple sclerosis,
cystic fibrosis and heart disease, and they have also led to new technology
for flashlights and flares and glow sticks, according to scientists at Purdue
and Ohio State.
Did You Know?
The light that the firefly emits is extremely energy efficient. Whereas light
bulbs give off only 10% of their energy as light (and 90% as heat), the firefly
gives off almost 100% of its energy as light.
It is sometimes called a cold light, since it does not give off much