Plants are everywhere. They give oxygen to provide our planet’s inhabitants with life, they provide food for humans and animals alike, but what if they could do more? Engineers have been working on a concept that would allow plants to provide light in the darkness, literally like a lamp.
The engineers at MIT have been perfecting what they call plant nanobionics. In testing, they have been able to embed nanoparticles into the leaves of watercress plants. They utilized an enzyme that allows fireflies their signature glow- luciferase. The result was a dim light that lasted approximately 45 minutes. After continued work, the team was able to increase the glow time to four hours. With already positive outcomes the research team will continue their work. Further testing will lead to other plants, eventually trees, being used in a similar fashion.
Long-term benefits of nanobionic plants are many. Electric light usage takes a lot of energy each day to support not just in the United States, but worldwide. If successful, people could reduce their energy use and carbon footprint. The engineers also discussed a possibility of nanobionic trees replacing street lights. Furthermore, countries that are underdeveloped would be able to have self-sustaining light at night at no cost. The benefits go on and on. The U.S. Department of Energy feels so strongly about this cause that they financially backed this MIT research project.
The future might just hold a different type of lighting than what has been used throughout history. Fire was the first form of light after dark and was developed to be used in candles and lamps. Electricity largely replaced fire-based light sources and quickly became widespread. Even the lightbulb has been adjusted many times to become safer and more energy efficient. The next big change in light sources might just grow from the ground and be self-sustainable. Nanobionic plants are the future of light that is currently being developed by some of the United States’ greatest minds today for a brighter future tomorrow.