Glowing plants could be the light source of the future as engineers discovered how to make plants to light up in the dark. This invention might one day replace the lamps and streetlights that commonly illuminate living rooms and roads.
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have succeeded in the first phase of their project. They have already discovered how to make plants glow.
On Dec. 12, via press release, Michael Strano, Carbon P. Dubbs professor of chemical engineering at MIT said, “The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in.”
Researchers further said that once fully developed, the new lighting technology will be able to provide low-intensity indoor illumination or turn trees into self-powered streetlights.
“The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” Strano added.
In any case, the study called the Nanobionic Light-Emitting Plant was published in the Nano Letters journal last month. Its lead author, Seon Yeong Kwak, noted that after seeing the results of their research, the invention would be developed further. At this stage, the engineers stated that the possibilities they envision now are even more inspiring.
— Science (@scienmag) December 13, 2017
This particular MIT research is currently being funded by the US Department of Energy and the office is hoping that the engineers would develop and produce plants that can provide light in a room through its glowing leaves.
How Did They Do It?
The MIT team made the glowing plant by infusing various plants that include watercress, spinach, arugula, and kale, in a specially formulated nanoparticle solution that also contains luciferase, the same enzyme that makes fireflies glow.
Next, they applied high pressure to the plants so that the particles will penetrate the leaves. The plant’s reaction to the process was to give off dim light that lasted for nearly four hours.
What’s more, the group also found a way to “turn off” the plant’s lights. They did this by simply adding different nanoparticles. This technique has been tested on spinach, kale, and arugula, and it worked.
At the moment, the glowing plants only emit dim light that stay lighted for just a few hours. Apparently, this is not strong enough to replace any lighting device yet but the engineers are hoping that they will be able to make big progress and eventually create fully functioning glowing plants that are strong enough to illuminate a room, and trees that can serve as streetlights.
Watch the amazing glowing plants creation below: