Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - PROTEINLED (Protein-integrated white light-emitting diodes for efficient, high-quality and biocompatible solid-state lighting)

A summary description of the project objectives:

Green photonics aims to provide solutions that generate or save energy, reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, produce environmentally sustainable outputs or enhance public health. Solid-state lighting (SSL), one of the most important green photonics technologies, offers 50% reduction in global electricity consumption for lighting that corresponds to the production by hundreds of coal plants and decrease in millions of tons of carbon emission, if the entire conventional white light sources are to be replaced with energy-efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs). However, the widely used phosphor-based white LED technology and the currently investigated nanocrystal-based white LEDs have limitations in terms of biocompatibility, energy efficiency and color quality. To this end, we propose a new class of color-conversion LEDs integrated with proteins to overcome the disadvantages of currently used and investigated color conversion materials. For this, we will work on the theoretical modeling, design, fabrication and experimental realization of these new solid-state lighting devices. The excellent optical properties of the fluorescent proteins including strong absorption, high fluorescence quantum yields and high photostability will enable us to achieve efficient and stable white light generation. Furthermore, the biocompatible characteristics of the proteins have the potential to minimize the pollution caused by the color-conversion materials and make them a strong candidate for “green lighting”. These hybrid photonic devices will embody fluorescent and transparent silk-fibroin proteins on III-V InGaN/GaN light-emitting structures. This project aims for protein-integrated color-conversion white LEDs that are expected to simultaneously achieve high-quality, efficient and eco-friendly solid-state lighting. Therefore, this project offers a potential solution to help addressing economical and environmental challenges we are now facing due to the energy problem.

A description of the work performed since the beginning of the project:

Dr. Nizamoglu (and his colleagues) achieved the ultimate goal of the protein-integrated white LEDs. We showed warm, daylight and cool white LEDs using biologically-derived fluorescent proteins for general lighting and their use in liquid-crystal displays. We demonstrate that the optimized expression and purification of fluorescent proteins allow for chip-scale integration of proteins and white light generation. Advantageously, the combinations of different protein emitters enable sensitive tuning of photometric quantities for application-specific lighting sources. In the scope of this project, Dr. Nizamoglu submitted 1 journal paper (under review), presented 1 conference paper and applied for 2 patents. The results of the project is currently in submission and they are expected to be published in one of the top-notch journals. Moreover, after joining the European Research Area he published two more papers in Nature Communication (S. Nizamoglu et. al., “Bioabsorbable polymer optical waveguides for deep-tissue photomedicine,” Nature Communications 7, 10374 (2016)) and Advanced Optical Materials (S. Nizamoglu et. al., “A Simple Approach to Biological Single-Cell Lasers Via Intracellular Dyes” Advanced Optical Materials 3, 1197–1200 (2015).) that he acknowledged the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (CIG). Moreover, his Nature paper is selected as Image of the Week by Nature Communication. During the project phase, in 2014 he was recognized as Innovator Under 35 by the world’s oldest and most respected technology publication “MIT Technology Review”. The Marie Curie CIG grant has been so far a crucial facilitator in Dr. Nizamoglu’s reintegration that significantly improved his research potential, and he proved this potential by receiving a European Research Council’s (ERC) Starting Grant (NOVELNOBI, 639846) . These achievements promoted him to have a long-term position at Koc University and established his interdisciplinary research group combining engineering, science and medicine. His team currently consists of 3 postdoctoral research fellows (from UK, Romania, and India) and 6 graduate (MS & PhD) students now.

A description of the main results achieved so far:

The invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes opened up a way toward bright and energy-saving white light sources. However, solid-state lighting is so far based on artificial or engineered wavelength-converter materials of phosphors, synthetic dyes and inorganic nanocrystals. Alternative to the current state of the wavelength-converter materials, we propose the use of fluorescent proteins as color-conversion material in LED technology. In this study, we describe the synthesis and purification of enhanced GFP (eGFP) and monomeric Cherry (mCherry) proteins, and their integration onto LED chips for green, red and white light generation. Furthermore, we demonstrate white LEDs with color-rendering index (CRI) above 80 for general lighting and their use in a 3.5” liquid-crystal display television (LCD TV). Fluorescent proteins offer advantageous properties for use in LEDs. All the processes in the synthesis of these biomaterials, from bacterial expression to purification, take place at physiological temperatures. Moreover, the eleven-stranded barrel shape of these proteins, with the photoactive moiety at the center, suppress non-radiative energy transfer between active centers, and this allows them to be used at high concentrations without significant degradation in their optical properties. In addition, the ecological diversity and bio-engineering of fluorescent proteins also allows us to choose among a variety of phenotypes that span the entire visible spectrum ranging from blue to red. The combination of a large color palette with narrow emission bands allow for tunable white light generation. These favorable properties make fluorescent proteins promising wavelength-converters for LED applications.

The expected final results and their potential impact and use:

Since their discovery in the 1960s, fluorescent proteins (FPs) have become an integral tool in molecular and cell biology, and recently these versatile molecules are finding interesting applications in photonics, for example, in biological cell lasers and solid-state lasers. Fluorescent proteins provide a green material that can be safely used for device applications. The expression of the fluorescent proteins using bacterial expression systems allows for sustainable and large-scale production that can lead to highly abundant and low cost material. Advantageously, the production of these materials does not require high processing temperatures and thus they have low embodied energy. Moreover, the proteomic nature of these fluorescent emitters are biocompatible and have been expressed in the tissue of the living animals such as zebra fish and mice. They provide a safer material for lighting applications in comparison with nanomaterials. In general, equipment (e.g., TVs, mobile phones, etc.) is replaced with their newer version before the end of their functional lifetime; the transient materials (e.g., proteins) that can safely degrade in nature can be beneficial for disposal and waste management.

Today there are more than 50 types of fluorescent proteins that can be directly used for technological applications. If we look at the progress in colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, first the core materials were demonstrated with low quantum efficiency, and then their stability and efficiency were enhanced with the development of core-shell type structures. The naturally-occurring nanostructure of fluorescent proteins has converged to a core-shell type structure that has the emitting part of the molecule protected by a barrel-shaped shield. In addition, there is significant room for development of novel proteins with enhanced brightness and photostability, which can significantly improve the device performances.

In summary, Dr. Nizamoglu (and his colleagues) demonstrated a new class of light emitting diodes integrated with biologically-derived fluorescent proteins. We showed the use of fluorescent proteins starting from the bacterial expression to their application in general lighting and displays. Their eco-friendly properties of low embodied energy, biocompatibility and biodegradability combined with the tunable color-properties and high quantum yield make them a strong candidate for photonic devices. The combinations of different protein emitters enables sensitive tuning of photometric properties for application-specific lighting sources. Fluorescent proteins show promise for efficient and high-quality lighting. The development of novel fluorescent proteins will further improve the efficiency levels and extend the color gamut. Therefore, there is plenty of room in fluorescent protein design, engineering and integration for device applications.


Askim Demiryurek, (Senior Grants Specialist)
Tel.: +90 212 338 13 33
Fax: +90 212 338 12 05


Life Sciences
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