Light-emitting sea urchins

Scientists at the research institute AMOLF have discovered that you can turn sea urchins and other metal carbonate structures into semiconductors. They dripped a mixture of two liquids onto the skeletons of sand dollars (a type of sea urchin). As a result, the ions in the structures were exchanged, explains Wim Noorduin, head of research.

Light-emitting sea urchins (credits: Lukas Helmbrecht, Henk-Jan Boluijt)Light-emitting sea urchins (credits: Lukas Helmbrecht, Henk-Jan Boluijt)

The material was thus transformed into perovskite, a semiconductor. If you shine a UV lamp onto the sand dollar during this process, you’ll see it happen before your very eyes: the skeleton emits a green light when the semiconductor is created.

‘We can now use this reaction to convert metal carbonate structures into semiconductors. Eventually, they can possibly be used for new electronic and optical applications,’ Noorduin says.