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Concept: Lighting


A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light. We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.

Concepts: Light, Sun, Mass, Probability theory, Lighting, Light pollution, Order theory, Energy conservation


Countershading was one of the first proposed mechanisms of camouflage [1, 2]. A dark dorsum and light ventrum counteract the gradient created by illumination from above, obliterating cues to 3D shape [3-6]. Because the optimal countershading varies strongly with light environment [7-9], pigmentation patterns give clues to an animal’s habitat. Indeed, comparative evidence from ungulates [9] shows that interspecific variation in countershading matches predictions: in open habitats, where direct overhead sunshine dominates, a sharp dark-light color transition high up the body is evident; in closed habitats (e.g., under forest canopy), diffuse illumination dominates and a smoother dorsoventral gradation is found. We can apply this approach to extinct animals in which the preservation of fossil melanin allows reconstruction of coloration [10-15]. Here we present a study of an exceptionally well-preserved specimen of Psittacosaurus sp. from the Chinese Jehol biota [16, 17]. This Psittacosaurus was countershaded [16] with a light underbelly and tail, whereas the chest was more pigmented. Other patterns resemble disruptive camouflage, whereas the chin and jugal bosses on the face appear dark. We projected the color patterns onto an anatomically accurate life-size model in order to assess their function experimentally. The patterns are compared to the predicted optimal countershading from the measured radiance patterns generated on an identical uniform gray model in direct versus diffuse illumination. These studies suggest that Psittacosaurus sp. inhabited a closed habitat such as a forest with a relatively dense canopy. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Habitat, Light, Sunlight, Color, Lighting, Pigment, Paleontology, Dinosaur


We report an enhancement in light emission efficiency of Si nanocrystal (NC) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) by employing 5.5 periods of SiCN/SiC superlattices (SLs). SiCN and SiC layers in SiCN/SiC SLs were designed by considering the optical bandgap to induce the uniform electron sheet parallel to the SL planes. The electrical property of Si NC LED with SiCN/SiC SLs was improved. In addition, light output power and wall-plug efficiency of the Si NC LED with SiCN/SiC SLs were also enhanced by 50% and 40%, respectively. This was attributed to both the formation of two-dimensional electron gas, i.e., uniform electron sheet parallel to the SiCN/SiC SL planes due to the conduction band offset between the SiCN layer and SiC layer, and an enhanced electron transport into the Si NCs due to a lower tunneling barrier height. We show here that the use of the SiCN/SiC SL structure can be very useful in realizing a highly efficient Si NC LED.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Semiconductor, Light-emitting diode, Lighting, Diode, Luminous efficacy, Aluminium nitride, LED lamp


Ecological photopollution created by artificial night lighting can alter animal behavior and lead to population declines and biodiversity loss. Polarized light pollution is a second type of photopollution that triggers water-seeking insects to ovisposit on smooth and dark man-made objects, because they simulate the polarization signatures of natural water bodies. We document a case study of the interaction of these two forms of photopollution by conducting observations and experiments near a lamp-lit bridge over the river Danube that attracts mass swarms of the mayfly Ephoron virgo away from the river to oviposit on the asphalt road of the bridge. Millions of mayflies swarmed near bridge-lights for two weeks. We found these swarms to be composed of 99% adult females performing their upstream compensatory flight and were attracted upward toward unpolarized bridge-lamp light, and away from the horizontally polarized light trail of the river. Imaging polarimetry confirmed that the asphalt surface of the bridge was strongly and horizontally polarized, providing a supernormal ovipositional cue to Ephoron virgo, while other parts of the bridge were poor polarizers of lamplight. Collectively, we confirm that Ephoron virgo is independently attracted to both unpolarized and polarized light sources, that both types of photopollution are being produced at the bridge, and that spatial patterns of swarming and oviposition are consistent with evolved behaviors being triggered maladaptively by these two types of light pollution. We suggest solutions to bridge and lighting design that should prevent or mitigate the impacts of such scenarios in the future. The detrimental impacts of such scenarios may extend beyond Ephoron virgo.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Light, Lighting, Polarization, Light pollution, Birefringence, Polarizer


The ecological impact of night-time lighting is of concern because of its well-demonstrated effects on animal behaviour. However, the potential of light pollution to change plant phenology and its corresponding knock-on effects on associated herbivores are less clear. Here, we test if artificial lighting can advance the timing of budburst in trees. We took a UK-wide 13 year dataset of spatially referenced budburst data from four deciduous tree species and matched it with both satellite imagery of night-time lighting and average spring temperature. We find that budburst occurs up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas, with the relationship being more pronounced for later-budding species. Excluding large urban areas from the analysis showed an even more pronounced advance of budburst, confirming that the urban ‘heat-island’ effect is not the sole cause of earlier urban budburst. Similarly, the advance in budburst across all sites is too large to be explained by increases in temperature alone. This dramatic advance of budburst illustrates the need for further experimental investigation into the impact of artificial night-time lighting on plant phenology and subsequent species interactions. As light pollution is a growing global phenomenon, the findings of this study are likely to be applicable to a wide range of species interactions across the world.

Concepts: Biology, Plant, Ecology, Urban area, Tree, Lighting, Oak, Deciduous


Why do we go to sleep late and struggle to wake up on time? Historically, light-dark cycles were dictated by the solar day, but now humans can extend light exposure by switching on artificial lights. We use a mathematical model incorporating effects of light, circadian rhythmicity and sleep homeostasis to provide a quantitative theoretical framework to understand effects of modern patterns of light consumption on the human circadian system. The model shows that without artificial light humans wakeup at dawn. Artificial light delays circadian rhythmicity and preferred sleep timing and compromises synchronisation to the solar day when wake-times are not enforced. When wake-times are enforced by social constraints, such as work or school, artificial light induces a mismatch between sleep timing and circadian rhythmicity (‘social jet-lag’). The model implies that developmental changes in sleep homeostasis and circadian amplitude make adolescents particularly sensitive to effects of light consumption. The model predicts that ameliorating social jet-lag is more effectively achieved by reducing evening light consumption than by delaying social constraints, particularly in individuals with slow circadian clocks or when imposed wake-times occur after sunrise. These theory-informed predictions may aid design of interventions to prevent and treat circadian rhythm-sleep disorders and social jet-lag.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Physics, Light, Sleep, Lighting, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Light-operated drugs constitute a major target in drug discovery, since they may provide spatiotemporal resolution for the treatment of complex diseases (i.e. chronic pain). JF-NP-26 is an inactive photocaged derivative of the metabotropic glutamate type 5 (mGlu5) receptor negative allosteric modulator raseglurant. Violet light illumination of JF-NP-26 induces a photochemical reaction prompting the active-drug’s release, which effectively controls mGlu5 receptor activity both in ectopic expressing systems and in striatal primary neurons. Systemic administration in mice followed by local light-emitting diode (LED)-based illumination, either of the thalamus or the peripheral tissues, induced JF-NP-26-mediated light-dependent analgesia both in neuropathic and in acute/tonic inflammatory pain models. These data offer the first example of optical control of analgesia in vivo using a photocaged mGlu5 receptor negative allosteric modulator. This approach shows potential for precisely targeting, in time and space, endogenous receptors, which may allow a better management of difficult-to-treat disorders.

Concepts: Nervous system, Energy, Light, Ligand, Pain, Metabotropic receptor, Light-emitting diode, Lighting


1. Moths (Lepidoptera) are the major nocturnal pollinators of flowers. However, their importance and contribution to the provision of pollination ecosystem services may have been under-appreciated. Evidence was identified that moths are important pollinators of a diverse range of plant species in diverse ecosystems across the world. 2. Moth populations are known to be undergoing significant declines in several European countries. Among the potential drivers of this decline is increasing light pollution. The known and possible effects of artificial night lighting upon moths were reviewed, and suggest how artificial night lighting might in turn affect the provision of pollination by moths. The need for studies of the effects of artificial night lighting upon whole communities of moths was highlighted. 3. An ecological network approach is one valuable method to consider the effects of artificial night lighting upon the provision of pollination by moths, as it provides useful insights into ecosystem functioning and stability, and may help elucidate the indirect effects of artificial light upon communities of moths and the plants they pollinate. 4. It was concluded that nocturnal pollination is an ecosystem process that may potentially be disrupted by increasing light pollution, although the nature of this disruption remains to be tested.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Insect, Ecology, Ecosystem, Pollination, Lighting, Light pollution, Lepidoptera


The electric light is one of the most important human inventions. Sleep and other daily rhythms in physiology and behavior, however, evolved in the natural light-dark cycle [1], and electrical lighting is thought to have disrupted these rhythms. Yet how much the age of electrical lighting has altered the human circadian clock is unknown. Here we show that electrical lighting and the constructed environment is associated with reduced exposure to sunlight during the day, increased light exposure after sunset, and a delayed timing of the circadian clock as compared to a summer natural 14 hr 40 min:9 hr 20 min light-dark cycle camping. Furthermore, we find that after exposure to only natural light, the internal circadian clock synchronizes to solar time such that the beginning of the internal biological night occurs at sunset and the end of the internal biological night occurs before wake time just after sunrise. In addition, we find that later chronotypes show larger circadian advances when exposed to only natural light, making the timing of their internal clocks in relation to the light-dark cycle more similar to earlier chronotypes. These findings have important implications for understanding how modern light exposure patterns contribute to late sleep schedules and may disrupt sleep and circadian clocks.

Concepts: Time, Natural selection, Light, Sun, Natural environment, Sleep, Lighting, Circadian rhythm


To facilitate the next generation of high-power white-light-emitting diodes (white LEDs), the discovery of more efficient red-emitting phosphor materials is essential. In this regard, the hardly explored compound class of nitridoaluminates affords a new material with superior luminescence properties. Doped with Eu(2+), Sr[LiAl3N4] emerged as a new high-performance narrow-band red-emitting phosphor material, which can efficiently be excited by GaN-based blue LEDs. Owing to the highly efficient red emission at λmax ~ 650 nm with a full-width at half-maximum of ~1,180 cm(-1) (~50 nm) that shows only very low thermal quenching (>95% relative to the quantum efficiency at 200 °C), a prototype phosphor-converted LED (pc-LED), employing Sr[LiAl3N4]:Eu(2+) as the red-emitting component, already shows an increase of 14% in luminous efficacy compared with a commercially available high colour rendering index (CRI) LED, together with an excellent colour rendition (Ra8 = 91, R9 = 57). Therefore, we predict great potential for industrial applications in high-power white pc-LEDs.

Concepts: Color, Light-emitting diode, Lighting, Color temperature, Next Generation, LEd, Luminous efficacy, Color rendering index