Tech we would like to come by: glowing foliage

Fans of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ will be fond of this one. In essence, a bunch of scientists have clearly introduced that they’d like to offer the world glowing vegetation! (Yes, you read that right). The planned tech could, in the future, offer us bioluminescent trees as an alternative to streetlights. The scientists’ eventual goal is to create vegetation so bright that you could read by them in otherwise entire darkness.

The idea is to use a type of genetic engineering (purposely: Synthetic Biology, where scientists create the specified genes as an alternative to merely splicing them in) so that they can create a strain of plant that can glow, visibly, during the dark.

Conversely, for all the big talk about changing streetlamps, obtaining a potted plant to grow in any way, is job one.

Apparently, we have seen ‘glowing’ insects and vegetation in the past, in fact, glowing zebra fish are a man-made innovation which can be available in many pet shops. In those periods, a luminous jellyfish protein is spliced into the animal’s DNA, with the effect of making the animal glow, but simply when uncovered to ultraviolet light.

Why we would like it:

Dude, glowing plants.

When can we expect it?

As I said, it has been made already. A couple of years ago, a different team of scientists made a glowing tobacco plant by infusing it among genes from the type of light-emitting bacterium that lives inside the sea. The difficulty was, that the light emitted by the plant wasn’t very vivid. In reality, it is barely noticeable.

Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom (groan!). This may be the kind of tale that has for sale magazines and garners web hits, so expect it to collect a lot of coverage. Where there’s coverage, there is money and where there’s cash, there is typically speedy development. Thus far, the crowd to blame for dreaming up this concept has garnered more than $250,000 on US blog ‘Kickstarter.com’, so things are definitely moving onward.

The possibility for glowing flower displays, bouquets of dazzling flowers, light-emitting roses for bistros and so on will ensure that enough people will be donating to this idea, with much more planning to secure the eventual harvest itself.

…And that’s before we even get to the green implications of an energy-efficient light source. The sci fi author in me cannot prevent, but envisage this like a bold first step right into a biotechnological outlook, where the whole lot, including your computer, is self-sustaining. In the end, what is the Human brain if not the ultimate physical supercomputer?

Anyway, I do not know concerning the ‘Treetlamps’ (I really trust they do not get called that), but we can expect the basic technology to emerge quite soon, I think. This new method absolutely has the potential to realize its aims, however it’s difficult to suggest exactly whilst (or if) that might be. For now, I’d give it a decade, at least.

Cool Factor: 4/5

The environmental functions alone are genuinely staggering. Furthermore, the sights we could be treated to would be merely incredible. The list of functions for tech like this is as long as your arm and the subject matter is both remarkable and worth discussing at parties. Bring on the glowing trees, I say!