Future Earth

Glowing Plants

Glowing Plants – Future Lighting

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A fantastic new plan to light our streets through the use of glowing plants may well be a step in the right direction for sustainable communities.

The drop in cost to a council by omitting the likes of numerous street lamps and their respective electrics and bulbs would make a significant impact on the cost of running these public spaces.

The following clip from the Kickstarter campaign by the Glowing Plant company has already well exceeded expectations. It is evident there is much support for this synthetic biology project.

While the first several generations of plants might be weaker at emitting light, the long-term idea is to replace electric or gas lighting with natural lighting from plants.

“We live in a world that is generating too much carbon dioxide,”

said Antony Evans, who is one of the three people behind the project.

“Nature has figured out ways of creating energy that don’t require so much CO2 use, and what we really want to do is awaken people to the potential of that. Instead of having all these expensive street lights, why don’t we get plants?”

With the project, they’re inserting bioluminescence genes into a small flowering plant called Arabidopsis that’s part of the mustard family.

How to make a glowing plant

Glowing

So, What is Synthetic Biology?

All living organisms contain an instruction set that determines what they look like and what they do. These instructions are encoded in the organisms’s DNA — long and complex strings of molecules embedded in every living cell. This is an organism’s genetic code (or “genome”).

glowing-plants-streetscapeHumans have been altering the genetic code of plants and animals for millennia, by selectively breeding individuals with desirable features. As biotechnologists have learned more about how to read and manipulate this code, they have begun to take genetic information associated with useful features from one organism, and add it into another one. This is the basis of genetic engineering, and has allowed researchers to speed up the process of developing new breeds of plants and animals.

More recently we have learnt how to make new sequences of DNA from scratch. By combining these techniques with the principles of modern engineering, scientists can now use computers and laboratory chemicals to design organisms that do new things.
This is the essence of synthetic biology and it’s potential is quite staggering. We can use this type of biology to produce cheaper, more efficient biofuels, to assist positive medical drug development by excreting relevant compound and natural chemicals or create new plants which naturally glow.

You can check out the project via their website glowingplant.com or get involved in the Kickstarter campaign

This looks to be a positive step towards adding a positive impact to sustainable communities, but will it cause problems in the future with people complaining that ‘The tree outside my window is too bright! I’m trying to get some sleep here’?

Glowing Plants - Lighting Innovation

Never the less, I’m keen to see how this slightly Dr Zeuss-esque solution plays out over time.

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