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  • The bright idea inspired by fireflies.

    September 29, 2021

    How fireflies inspired the bright idea that keeps food safe and surfaces clean.

    Every day, the world feeds billions of people – but how do we know this food is safe? And how do we know if hospitality and healthcare environments are really clean? We know that although surfaces may appear clean, tiny microscopic organisms may still be present. We also know that while food may look safe to consume, sometimes this isn’t always the case. 3M scientists are helping in many forms to maintain the cleanliness and health of people all over the world, from creating advanced drug delivery systems to hand hygiene products and sterilisation monitoring tools.

    Invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms, biofilm, and other biological residues are a big deal in food and health-care industries. Healthcare and food experts have the responsibility of keeping their patients and customers safe and healthy, and cleanliness plays a large role in this responsibility.

    These invisible microbes are carried in organic matter, all of which contains Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short. To detect this organic matter, 3M scientists took inspiration from the firefly, whose light-generating reactions, also known as the ATP bioluminescence system, is found in.

    Taking inspiration from nature and using the science of light, 3M scientists could mimic the firefly’s dazzling display and develop products such as the 3M™ Clean-Trace™ ATP Monitoring System, which uses optical science and bioluminescence to detect, identify and record the presence of organic matter on surfaces. This quantitative data can be collected and analysed in real time to improve the cleaning effectiveness in facilities requiring clean and sterile environments. This technology can also be applied to food samples when testing for the presence of potentially harmful organic matter – if the food sample glows like a firefly, the food is no good.

    These 3M solutions allow healthcare and food experts to ensure patient rooms, public spaces, instruments and even endoscopes are clean and safe, maintaining the health and safety of their patients and customers.

    Thanks to the spectacular little fireflies that inspired 3M scientists’ bright idea, healthcare and food professionals can focus on what is most important – helping others remain safe and healthy, working to improve lives around the world – every day.