Bioluminescent Trees Could Replace Street Lights

A Dutch designer is rethinking the way we illuminate our streets.
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A Dutch designer is rethinking the way we illuminate our streets.
tree light

Photo Credit: Studio Roosegaarde

A team of designers may have just found a way to grow street lights. Earth We Are One reports that Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and his team are looking toward bioluminescent jellies and bacteria that, when their light producing compounds merge with plants, might be able to turn trees into glowing street lights.

Using plants as lights sources is not a new concept. A team from the University of Cambridge developed what they called BioBricks by modifying the genetic material of fireflies and the bacterium Vibrio fischeri to encourage the production of light-yielding enzymes. A company was making a product called Glowing Plants, which would provide light without electricity. Another group of researchers developed lamps powered by algae.

“When a jellyfish is deep, deep underwater it creates its own light,” Roosegaarde said. “It does not have a battery or a solar panel or an energy bill. It does it completely autonomously. What can we learn from that?”

He teamed up with Alexander Krichevsky, who founded Bioglow, a company that wants to make autonomously luminescent plants commercial. An enzyme called luciferase allows for the light-emitting reactions in different organisms. This led the team to creating two houseplants that can produce luciferase and a substrate liciferins.

Roosegaarde is using Krichevsky's plants on a larger scale for an installation that will look like bioluminescent trees.

“I mean, come on, it will be incredibly fascinating to have these energy-neutral but at the same time incredibly poetic landscapes,” he said.

Roosegaarde is also working on a project called Glowing Nature, which has the team working on biological paint that can be used on trees to allow them to glow at night. 

tree light

Photo Credit: Studio Roosegaarde

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