Soft yet robust materials that light up in reaction to mechanical stress have been created by a research team led by the University of California, San Diego. Dinoflagellates, a type of single-celled algae, give the materials their luminescence, allowing them to emit light with no power source.

Dinoflagellates are a diverse group of mostly aquatic microorganisms belonging to the Kingdom Protista. They are known for their distinctive appearance and their bioluminescent properties, meaning they can emit light when disturbed. This natural phenomenon, often seen as sparkling or glowing in the ocean at night, serves various ecological purposes, including predator avoidance and communication.

“An exciting feature of these materials is their inherent simplicity—they need no electronics, no external power source,” said study senior author Shengqiang Cai, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “We demonstrate how we can harness the power of nature to directly convert mechanical stimuli into light emission.”

To read more, click here.