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One of America's top light-emitting-diode boffins plans to develop improved LEDs made from sperm. Salmon sperm, to be precise - for now at any rate.

According to a tongue-in-cheek University of Cincinnati release dated last week, Prof Andrew Steckl is quite forthright about his plans.

"Biological materials have many technologically important qualities - electronic, optical, structural, magnetic," he says.

"But certain materials are hard to duplicate, such as DNA and proteins."

It seems that DNA - quite apart from its other well-known properties - is especially useful as an electron trap in LEDs.

"It allows improvements in one to two orders of magnitude in terms of efficiency, light, brightness - because we can trap electrons longer," explains Steckl.

It seems that the US Air Force Research laboratory, funding Steckl's research, was especially keen to consider sources of supply in developing a new generation of electronic components. They wanted to use materials which would involve no environmental damage, and which were not controlled by sinister foreign powers.

You or I, not being top scientists, would perhaps be stumped if asked to find a source of DNA - in industrial quantities, mind - which fulfilled these requirements. But not Steckl, who came up with sperm.

"Salmon sperm is considered a waste product of the fishing industry - it's thrown away by the ton," the Prof says, thankfully without going into detail.

The UC press department, perhaps suffering a rush of blood to the brain, adds that while Steckl is currently using DNA from salmon, he thinks that other sources might be equally useful. The UC scribes make the obvious point:

"For the United States, the [jism-based] approach takes advantage of something in which we continue to be a world leader..."

(That's agriculture, apparently.)

In a further naughtiness-aforethought quote, the puckish professor reports that his research has led to widespread excitement in the scientific community. He says he's receiving samples "from researchers around the world wanting to see if their sperm is good enough".

Steckl's plan does seem to raise some troubling questions. Assuming robust takeup of the new fish-emission-tronic LED tech, and some kind of massive piscine porn industry arising to service the inevitable eruption in materials output, it seems reasonable to suppose that the male salmon population will soon become too weary to reproduce themselves. At that point, jism futures might go ballistic and it could be literally all hands to the pumps in order to secure US military supplies.

Possibly a case of taking LED from one's pencil, so to speak (sorry).®

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