The Glowing Sea
Duncecap or helmet jelly
© Edie Widder HBOI
Bioluminescence is a cool light. This means when bioluminescence is produced, the process creates very little heat. Nearly all the energy used in a bioluminescent chemical reaction is converted to light. In contrast, only 3% of the energy used by a light bulb is converted to light. The rest, 97%, is wasted as heat.
Three components are needed for a bioluminescent chemical reaction:
Different organisms produce different versions of luciferin and luciferase, but the chemical reaction remains the same. In the presence of oxygen, luciferase acts upon luciferin to produce light.
Luciferin + Luciferase + Oxygen = LIGHT
See an animated sequence of this process in Chemisty of Bioluminescence at the Biological Sciences Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara website.