Illuminating Plants: Our Possible Next Source of Sustainable Light

If you can wrap your Christmas tree with a glowing grapevine that keeps on lighting its entire lifespan, wouldn’t that be great? You wouldn’t have to worry about short circuits or your house burning down because you forgot to unplug the lights. One might think that this is just wishful thinking, but the truth is, we’re already one step forward towards this path.

MIT’s Glowing Plants

Not so long ago, the MIT engineers announced that they were able to make watercress plants glow. The plants glow through nano bionics wherein the nanoparticles are injected into plants’ living cells, enabling them to carry out a certain task. And in this case, the plant’s task is to illuminate. Before this research, scientists have used the same method to enable plants to monitor drought conditions and identify explosives.

According to the lead scientist of this project, Michael Strano, the primary goal of this research is to make plants the ultimate replacements for our electric desk lamps. Light is emitted by the plant’s natural metabolism without any form of genetic modification.

How the Plant Glows

Through nanobionics, the plants are immersed in a solution that contains enzymes which are responsible for making the fireflies glow. The plant’s cells absorb those particles, prompting them to do what they intended to do: glow. The result is a faint yellow-green light coming off the leaves.

Initially, the leaves only glowed for 45 minutes, and then for up to four hours. The researchers have reason to believe that they can make the glow last the entire lifespan of the plant as well as increase its brightness. For now, the light is still very faint, but with further developments in the future, we may be able to read books just by the glow of these plants.

What Does This Mean To Us?

For now, the glowing plants are not able to illuminate so brightly that you can use them to read books, but the technology and science behind it are rapidly unfolding. The glowing plants can give off light for four hours, but the researchers are aiming for a lifetime glow.

The discovery of glowing plants is opening up new trends and opportunities in the lighting niche. For one, when plants can emit light in such a way that they’re comparable to electric lights, we can have a sustainable light source without depending on electrical power. That implies being able to lower our electric bills in the household and commercial levels.

On a larger scale, glowing plants can illuminate the streets so we wouldn’t have to depend on lamp posts. Trees could light up the highways and vegetation could brighten our landscapes at night.

The Future of Lighting

As of now, we’re still dependent on online wall lights overhead lamps, light bulbs and other lighting fixtures to illuminate our homes. These fixtures also eat up some portion of our electric bill. Since lighting is an essential element for us to live from day to day, we need to use the current technology to be able to carry out tasks.

Glowing plants are telling us that the future of lighting may be one that’s sustainable and eco-friendly. While we’re not there yet, developments like these hold the promise for a brighter future. And perhaps, we may be able to crochet or read next to a pot of spinach.

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