MIT Just Created Living Plants That Glow Like A Lamp, And Could Grow Glowing Trees To Replace Streetlights


Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts injected specialized nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours. This could solve lots of problems.

The chemical involved, which produced enough light to read a book by, is the same as is used by fireflies to create their characteristic shine. To create their glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned to an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light.
 
Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts created a watercress plant which caused it to glow for nearly four hours and gave off enough light to illuminate this book
Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity. The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier.

The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp.



Researchers believe with further tweaking, the technology could also be used to provide lights bright enough to illuminate a workspace or even an entire street, as well as low-intensity indoor lighting.

Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study, 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. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself. Our work very seriously opens up the doorway to streetlamps that are nothing but treated trees, and to indirect lighting around homes.'

Luciferases make up a class of oxidative enzymes found in several species that enable them to 'bioluminesce', or emit light.  Fireflies are able to emit light via a chemical reaction.



In the chemical reaction luciferin is converted to oxyluciferin by the luciferase enzyme.  Some of the energy released by this reaction is in the form of light. The reaction is highly efficient, meaning nearly all the energy put into the reaction is rapidly converted to light.


Lighting accounts for around 20 per cent of worldwide energy consumption, so replacing them with naturally bioluminescent plants would represent a significant cut to CO2 emissions. The researchers’ early efforts at the start of the project yielded plants that could glow for about 45 minutes, which they have since improved to 3.5 hours.

The light generated by one ten centimetre (four inch) watercress seedling is currently about one-thousandth of the amount needed to properly read by, but it was enough to illuminate the words on a page of John Milton's Paradise Lost.

The MIT team believes it can boost the light emitted, as well as the duration of light, by further optimising the concentration and release rates of the chemical components.  For future versions of this technology, the team hopes to develop a way to paint or spray the nanoparticles onto plant leaves, which could make it possible to transform trees and other large plants into light sources. 

The researchers have also demonstrated that they can turn the light off by adding nanoparticles carrying a luciferase inhibitor.  This could enable them to eventually create plants that shut off their light emission in response to environmental conditions such as sunlight, they say. 

The full findings of the study were published in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. What do you think about this development? 


Let us know in the comments.


Via DailyMail

Comments

  1. They redesigned the light-activated endogenous substrate that links the creation of sunlight to energy generation (ATP) and storage mechanisms (microRNA flanking sequences) in all cell types of all living genera.

    Both ATP and the creation of RNA are required for energy-dependent error-free RNA-mediated DNA repair.

    The DNA repair occurs only in the context of pre-existing differences in hydrogen that link hydrogen-atom transfer in DNA base pairs in solution to all biophysically constrained biodiversity via the creation of enzymes that metabolize food.

    The metabolism of food to pheromones, which control the physiology of reproduction links feedback loops from species-specific morphological and behavioral phenotypes to survival on this planet.

    They report this as autonomous self-repair in an attempt to "...advance the viability of nanobionic plants as self-powered photonics, direct and indirect light sources."

    It seems likely that they are like theoretical physicists who know nothing about biologically-based top-down causation. Most of them seem to think that the creation of the sun was like magic, so they use the magic of chemistry as if they were the intelligent designers of all life on Earth.

    But, as Feynman once admitted, "I could be wrong." This may not be an example of what he referred to as human idiocy.

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    1. You have more intelligent than most people, but most will think this is all wonderful and nature....its to my mind very devious, and a hidden agenda

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    2. Cool.understand most, but, have to pull out my chemistry books and three bottles of aspirin and two large iced teas to reply.in short, can make it sustainable yet? Keep plugging away.realize when you do figure it out though, The NSA will confiscate it and criminalize it for gen-pop use.only fair right?why should it benefit the public, loss on them

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    3. Indeed James. It is still a step in the right direction, with at least _one_ good intent.

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    4. Good intentions, yes. But at what cost to the rest of the surrounding eco-system?
      Would the plants thus injected be safe for consumption? By both 'humans' and the other creatures that depend on these plants for both food and shelter?
      If a human were to consume one of these plants, would the bio-luminescence capability transfer? Ever? Some humans, I'm told, eat water cress as part of their daily diets.
      If insects, like ants and such, live in these trees and eat the living wood of the tree, would they become easier targets for other insects and for birds and other animals? And if so, would they then start to glow?

      I believe much cautionary thought needs to taken before releasing these 'benefits to mankind' out into the Real World.

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    6. Apart from all the concerns you have, the idea of a tree replacing a lamp does not seem to be very effective. A tree casts a way bigger shadow than a lamp post hoisting the source of light higher above the ground for clarity of vision, besides what are we to do if the trees are uprooted or damaged due to natural causes? Wait for a new tree to grow back in it's place?

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  2. smart people those MIT guys (and gals)

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  3. The luciferin-luciferase reaction produces light, using the energy of ATP. The ATP could be supplied by the plant cells, but, as I understand it, production of sustained light would require replacement of the luciferin. Unless the plant cells can be modified to produce luciferin, the street light trees would need to be treated with the nanoparticles every night - a return to the days of the lamp lighters!

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  4. No details about the source of the luciferin, how it is produced and how much energy that takes, how it is distributed to the plants, etc.

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    1. And how does it affect insects/animals that eat these plants/leaves? Ecosystem?

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  5. The light bringer, Luciferase, looks like a whole new way to fool the masses over to the wrong light. makes me feel very uncomfortable....Lucifer the light bringer, the NWO God....

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    1. First off, luciferase is just the name of a class of enzyme that happens to oxidize luciferin, a class of enzyme substrate, to produce light. Presumedly whatever scientist discovered this class of enzymes and substrates that are naturally occuring thought it would be an attention grabbing name. Its just a really old name for that kind of enzyme. Luciferin and luciferase are present in many organisms in nature - certain species of glowing snails, glowing fungi, and famously, fireflies. All they've really done is the same thing they did with those glofish you can get in the pet stores - add the 'glowing' trait - but to trees. As far as that nwo bullshit and false gods and stuff - your beliefs make you sound like a crazy person, there's no god and it is up to us humans to figure out what best we can do in an indifferent universe, which I happen to think is care for and try to get along with each other and care for the ecosystem on which we depend because no one is going to come along and 'save' us if we mess it up. As far as new world orders, you seem to think there's some kind of control people have over their government that is at stake. We live in a failed democracy run by corporatist oligarchs already. Power has already rather publicly been seized by people who did not bother concealing their actions in part because they see the populace as too complacent to do anything real about it or agree on what is really happening. And they're right, people are too busy looking for illuminati conspiracies and the like to see what is in front of their faces.

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    2. Katherine, while I agree with you, there is no reason to judge people's beliefs. We need to learn how to stop judging and respect each other's opinions. Whether people believe in God or not, I respect them equally and I learn from both sides to keep an open mind. After all, we are all looking for the same answers of existence and nobody has quite the answers yet.

      Anonymous was concerned about the word luciferin coming from the word Lucifer. Religiously speaking, Lucifer comes from the Latin word lucifero which literally means "light bearer". Lucifer was created by god as perfect angel. When Lucifer was cast out of heaven he LOST his name Lucifer and then became known as Satan.

      The word "lucifero" was then derived to other scientific discoveries for the purpose of expressing light. So it has NO RELATIONS with any religious warnings :)

      We all hope for a better world, hopefully the day will come where differences are embraced and scientists replace shady politicians.

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    3. Katherine, I'm going to assume that, by your comments, you are a citizen of the United States. The government of which was never intended to be a democracy; therefore, it could not be a 'failed democracy'. Check it out for yourself.

      As for the rest of your commentary, I agree with 7Heaven; we all have our own thoughts and opinions, and we should each acknowledge that another's is just as valid as our own. Plus, we should each strive to work toward making our world the best possible place for all beings to live.

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    4. Luciferin, luciferase ... Paradise Lost ...

      Trees glowing like hellfire ...

      The symbolism is not lost.

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    5. Amen Op. I will pray for the salvation of those attempting to play God.

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    6. I prefer "Lumiere"myself. :)

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  6. Wow!!! That is what is suggested in Qura'an, contemplate in the things created and scattered all around you.

    "He causes to grow for you thereby the crops, olives, palm trees, grapevines, and from all the fruits. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought."[Quran 16: 11]

    for more on many topics:-- read shakir2.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you for giving reference. As Quran said, I do believe humans are given brain to think and uncover underlying working principles or laws. However I must say it is not just to read it is also to follow and educate ourself and analyze the pros and cons. all searchers and scientists r doing but ethical issues should not be neglected. I like the idea but not sure about the side effects of the technology. Whenever we go against natural process or modify things to through chemical things it creates longitudinal effects

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    2. Yes, animals/insects eat plants. This will have affects. Don't think it's a good idea to 'unleash' in our environment. Contained small spaces perhaps, but plants get eaten...insects get eaten...animals get eaten....etc...

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  8. Science is a genius for isolating effects without concern for the holistic impact that are natural since everything is interdependent. Change some aspects, that will create ripples, large or small, throught the system. Science doesn't usually think holistically so what are the reprecussions with the whole system of these particular tress- we will have to wait and see. Finally, besides perhaps a certain aesthic charm, who cares if trees can become reading or street lights? The CO2 issue is mute when lights are run by solar power or otrher alternative energy sourses readily available now. Besides the cost and flexibility of maintaining tree ‘lights’ in the public or even private domain will likely be cost ineffective when compared to electric lighting.

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    1. co2 issue is not an issue to begin with.

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    2. @anon It can be an issue though. AFAIK, bioluminescence needs ATP to function. ATP is usually generated from respiration that needs both glucose and oxygen and will have CO2 as the one of the outputs. The plant needs respiration to live. So if we have the plant to also do bioluminescence, the plant should generate more ATP so that it can live AND glow. Thus, more CO2 generated.

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    3. It's moot, not mute.

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    4. @jewell -- *Slow clap*

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    5. Hahahahahahahahahajahahajajahahajajajajajajajajajajajajajajaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! Slow clap indeed.

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    6. Viable Plants naturally 'consume' CO2 and release O2 as a result of their actions.
      The more green plants in the world the more CO2 is absorbed and the more Oxygen released. If these luminescent plants require Oxygen to glow...

      Seems there is a problem here.

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  9. This is good and all, but how much energy does a plant need to light up a good portion of a street? The plant must first store a massive amount of ATP energy from photosynthesis to be released at night then. Can the usual amount of glucose generated from the normal photosynthesis be enough to sustain the life of the plant AND to do a great deal of bioluminescence? Or do we have to supply the ATP energy ourselves manually into the plant at night? How?

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  10. The first idea and research about "Glowing Trees To Replace Streetlights" started in 2003, and is from a researcher of the Genetic Architectures Research Group (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, Barcelona). The first phase was the obtention in 2005 of 7 glowing lemon trees: published for first time in 2005 (Metalocus), 2006 (Urban Nightscape), 2007 (Leonardo), etc. Since then, at least 4 more (3 of USA and one from Holland) are copying this idea without mentioning its origin. To get a real luminous efficiency they are now in a fourth research phase, waiting for sponsors for such research in their University. (Also this research of the MIT needs improve its real (environmental) efficiency, finding another research way: only that they don't need money;-)

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  11. "The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants." Could be toxic to the plants? Why on Earth would we add something to plants that could be toxic to them? We need plants for our own livelihood. If you make plants toxic, you potentially make the entire planet toxic. Example: pesticides. They cause all kinds of illnesses.

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  12. Nature has it's own "genome"... Tampering with that "irritates" the balance... What insects are going to be drawn towards the altered wavelengths produced by this process?... What happens to them once they ingest these "substances"?... Making the water "glow bluer" isn't always a good idea... Instinctual coloration is a main component to all ecosystems... IMHO... ;)

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  13. Most plants also need a dark cycle, during which they do respiration and use oxygen. During the day they photosynthesize and produce oxygen and use CO2, at night they flip the switch and do the opposite. This isn't optional. So if you have plants that are constantly lit up, will it affect their dark cycle? And where does all the energy for light come from? I'd they use so much energy to produce bright light, what will they have left for growth and normal functions? There's a lot of this project that hasn't been well thought out or explained yet. It would make more sense to just install actual solar lighting that is straightforward and has a panel that gathers solar energy during the day and then turns on at night. No one is going to use a fragile plant on their nightstand for a book light at night. People can't even keep regular houseplants alive. houseplants alive

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    1. Di you even read the article? It explains most of these questions.

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  14. "This could solve a lot of problems" - Well, it will certainly be a big help when I have mislaid my watercress and the electricity is out.

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  15. Didn't Sheldon do the same thing with goldfish in Big Bang?

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  16. Plants and trees are living things and far more complex than we currently understand. This strikes me as vain and ill-thought through and to no real purpose. What about long-term heath implictions for trees and possibly anything close by? Let's stick to solar lighting and appreciate trees for their natural beauty.

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    1. The purpose is to reduce the amount of energy used for lighting. I don't understand what "solar lighting" means: obviously, if the Sun is visible, you don't need lighting at all.

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    2. Robert: I'm pretty sure that when Mark suggested using solar lighting, he would have meant "Use solar panels to generate electricity and store it in a battery until lighting up time".

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    3. solar power can be stored in batteries and used to power lights at night. It's not exactly rocket surgery Robert Kopp.

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  17. Could be a bad idea , that would mess the diurnal/nocturnal life cycle of the nearby living beings , and there would be no way to "switch off" if needed one day .

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  18. What would happen if somebody was to eat a quantity of that watercress - or any other plant treated to bioluminesce in this manner? Maybe we'd never again need to carry a torch.

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  19. Don't eat this watercress! You'll never have a good night's sleep again! ...extra sad situation if your married.

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  20. Bioluminescent humans as plant eaters, or essential oil wearers, and plants who don't want to glow in the dark. Ah....the perils of myopic yet creative science. If you have any doubt that plants are sentient, then look up plants who killed a portion of a Kudu herd...just enough to balance the ecosystem. Look up plants that dance. This world is magic, and it is up to us all to get to know the other beings and respect them for who they are. Holding dominion is NOT the same as dominating. The time for egoist thinking is past. Ecoist thinking and action is NOW.

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  21. Wow. Pseudo-smart people. How annoying

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    1. wow. one-line responses. how smart...

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  22. It is already possible to achieve emission-free lighting with current technologies (LED lights & renewable energy) without having to play "God" and manipulate the flora and ecosystem without really knowing the potential long-term consequences this might have (like with GMO's), and most importantly without having to spend thousands if not millions of dollars on this kind of research which could instead be put to better use.

    Besides, if we are REALLY interested in reducing greenhouse gases, we can achieve way better results by simply stopping livestock farming and changing to a plant-based diet. Around 14% of all GHG emissions comes from farming animals. Moreover, 44% of all livestock emissions come in the form of Methane. When you consider that Methane has a negative effect on climate that is 23 times higher than CO2 then you start to get a real picture of how detrimental the meat industry is for the environment.

    Now take into account how all the land used for livestock would be used to grow plants producing oxygen and its a clear no brainer.

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  23. Wouldn't it be simpler to fill a small tank with bioluminescent algae with a small agitator that can be turned on when needed? Run the agitator off of a battery and small solar panel.

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  24. Robotic cars and passengers won't need light anyway, just programming and batteries... Yes Sir, the future looks crazier with every promise...

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  25. These people are playing God and Lucifer is helping. Lucifer has been trying to overthrow God since the dawn of time. These scientists are only helping Lucifer. God, these people know not what they do. Help them turn back to You before it is too late for their salvation. Amen.

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  26. And what about lightpollution???

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