Wired reveals how MIT made this cool magic trick happen – by using a little bit electricity to convert heat into light:
The LED produces 69 picowatts of light using 30 picowatts of power, giving it an efficiency of 230 percent. That means it operates above “unity efficiency” — putting it into a category normally occupied by perpetual motion machines.
However, while MIT’s diode puts out more than twice as much energy in photons as it’s fed in electrons, it doesn’t violate the conservation of energy because it appears to draw in heat energy from its surroundings instead. When it gets more than 100 percent electrically-efficient, it begins to cool down, stealing energy from its environment to convert into more photons.
So, if you didn’t know, one of the most important parts of the computer you’re reading this on is the heat sink – generally a chunk of some kind of very conductive metal that’s pasted onto the chip that does your computer’s thinking. Chips get hot. Heat cracks electronic components.
Paste one of these LEDs onto that same chip, and it’ll convert all that excess heat into pretty blinking lights… just like a Star Trek control panel.