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From ancient times to modern times, human beings have used various ways to light the night, from the pyrotechnics of the ape-man period, the lamp oil of the Middle Ages, to Edison's electric bulbs, as well as modern fluorescent lamps and LED lights. But now, MIT has successfully developed a plant lighting technology that allows plants to automatically glow, illuminate the night, and last for more than a dozen days without plugging in electricity at all.
Luminescent plants use the principle of fireflies to emit light, which can last for several days.
In 2017, Professor MIT successfully created glowing plants by inserting luciferase in watercress. Luciferase is also a substance that makes fireflies glow. It reacts with luciferin and glows.
Researchers made nanoparticle containers of silica, polylactic acid-glycolic acid (PLGA) and chitosan. When injected into plants, PLGA slowly releases fluorescein and reacts with fluorescein enzymes.
In the experiment, although watercress can glow continuously for 3.5 hours, the brightness can not be maintained, and the initial peak will quickly darken. Therefore, the researchers added photocapacitor particles to store the peak light energy, and then released energy smoothly, so the plant's luminous time increased from 3.5 hours to days, or even weeks
. Luminescent plants can reduce carbon emissions, but planting in buildings is the key technology
According to MIT, human lighting accounts for 20% of global energy consumption and produces 200 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Therefore, if light-emitting plants are produced in large quantities, they will replace most lamps and reduce global carbon emissions.
Sheila Kennedy, professor of MIT Architecture Department, said that as luminescent plants need to collect light sources to emit light, buildings must provide sunlight, as well as soil and compost to maintain plant growth, so how to grow plants in buildings will be a key factor in the future application of plant lighting technology.
In the future, the team will study new ways of injecting nanoparticles into plants to make them glow throughout their life cycle. In addition, the team will experiment with large plants such as trees. Perhaps in the future, there will be no street lights on the road, but a number of luminous street trees, guiding the way home in the middle of the night.
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