Plants induced to give off dim light for 4 hours, by a team of scientists lead by Professor Michael Strano from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of California, by embedding specialized nanoparticles into the leaves of the Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), a major step towards realising their vision of using plants to illuminate the workspace. As published in the journal ‘Nano Letters’ researchers have found a way to infuse plants with the luminescence of fireflies, which could help reduce our dependence on conventional lighting.
According to Michael Strano Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, “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.”
This technology could also be used to provide low-intensity indoor lighting, or to transform trees into self-powered streetlights. Imagine that instead of switching on a lamp when it gets dark, you could read by the light of a glowing plant on your desk.
Plant nanobionics, a new research area, aims to give plants novel features by embedding them with different types of nanoparticles. The group’s goal is to engineer plants to take over many of the functions now performed by electrical devices. The researchers have previously designed plants that can ‘Detect Explosives’ and communicate that information to a smartphone, as well as plants that can ‘Monitor Drought Conditions’.
Lighting, which accounts for about 20% of worldwide energy consumption, seemed like a logical next target. As the Plants can self-repair, they have their own energy, and they are already adapted to the outdoor environment, this is an idea whose time has come. It’s a perfect problem for plant nanobionics.
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