MIT engineers just unveiled living, glowing plants

Sensors applied to plant leaves warn of water shortage

Who Needs Light Bulbs? MIT Just Invented Glowing Plants

Although the new plants now don't glow any brighter than previous ones did, the MIT researchers say their method is simpler, and can be applied to essentially any type of plant.

Illumination of a book ("Paradise Lost", by John Milton) with the nanobionic light-emitting plants (two 3.5-week-old watercress plants).

Engineers have hacked watercress plants to make them glow for a few hours at a time, and while it's now only about as bright as those old stars you might have stuck to your ceiling as a kid, the long-term plan is to develop plants that you could read by to reduce the need for electric lighting.

This is not the first time that MIT did something miraculous, earlier also the top-most technology institution did some revolutionary high-tech plant research. The luminous properties can be achieved by embedding specialized nanoparticles into the leaves, which can glow for almost four hours.

The team published a paper in the journal Nano Letters on November 17 describing the process by which they embed plants with nanoparticles that take energy stored by photosynthesis and turn it into light, said Michael Strano, a chemical engineering professor at MIT and the paper's senior author.

Luciferase acts on the molecule luciferin to give off light.

Today, lighting accounts for as much as 20% of worldwide energy consumption.

"The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself", he said. "Another molecule called co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity", it said.

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Each of these particles was then packed into carriers which balanced light and potential toxicity, submerged in a solution and then exposed to high pressure to push the particles into entering leaves through stomata pores.

We may have some rather stylish lamps on the market, but one day, we may be able to replace our reading light with plants.

The solution-modified plants were then able to generate dim light for about four hours.

The team specializes in what is now called plant nanobionics and have previously designed plants able to detect explosives and monitor drought conditions.

"Our work very seriously opens up the doorway to streetlamps which are nothing but treated trees, and to indirect lighting around homes".

The team hope to do this by improving the concentration of the enzymes involved and developing a paint that would easily turn plants into living light sources.

You can check out the glowing plants in the video below.

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