The military is investing in the phenomena of bioluminescence – the glow that lights up fireflies and plankton – in hopes of making warzones safer.
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research awards about $500,000 worth of grants annually; the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation also give grants for bioluminescence studies.
Importantly, bioluminescence creates light without emitting heat – meaning that if used by the U.S. military, areas could be lit without fear of heat-seeking missiles. Possible applications include markers to denote who’s who on a battlefield, supply trackers, security systems and even helicopter landing zones.
Hugh De Long, deputy director of math, information and life sciences at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research said, “It’s much more beneficial and efficient for the military to go out to the university community and say, ‘Hey, look, this is an area that will tie in with some of the stuff we’re doing, and we want to fund that.’”