Are firefly genes introduced into plants the future of urban lighting?
One of the researchers’ visions of the future is to illuminate streets with glowing trees instead of with electric light.
Some creatures glow through chemical reaction. The phosphor – luciferin – is oxidized by an enzyme – luciferase – which produces energy in the form of light.
In the research project “Glowing Plant Project“, researchers wanted to use the property of fireflies to make trees glow. The genetic material of the firefly was artificially simulated on the computer and introduced into plants. In principle, plants can be made to glow – with artificial genes.
Bioluminescence would have the advantage over electric light of massive energy savings and thus reduced carbon dioxide pollution, was the argument of the researchers for this project. After all, lighting in cities produces almost as much carbon dioxide as their cars. The project was to be financed by an appeal for donations at Kickstarter.
However, the researchers’ plan was heavily criticised. It was feared that the seeds of the luminous plants could spread uncontrolled. Undesirable lighting of other areas was feared.
After the project was controversially discussed for some time, it was discontinued – at least for the time being. Presumably, increasingly scarce energy resources will one day bring about a renaissance in research.