Taiwanese researchers have come up with the elegant idea of replacing streetlights with trees, by implanting their leaves with gold nanoparticles. This causes the leaves to give off a red glow, lighting the road for passersby without the need for electric power. This ingenious triple threat of an idea could simultaneously reduce carbon emissions, cut electricity costs and reduce light pollution, without sacrificing the safety that streetlights bring.
As many good things do, this discovery came about by accident when the researchers were trying to create lighting as efficient as LEDs without using the toxic, expensive phosphor powder that LEDs rely on. The gold nanoparticles, shaped like sea urchins, put into the leaves of Bacopa caroliniana plants cause chlorophyll to produce the reddish luminescence.
In an added bonus, the luminescence will cause the leaves' chloroplasts to photosynthesize, which will result in more carbon being captured from the air while the streets are lit. The next steps are to improve the efficiency of the bioluminescence and apply the technology to other biomolecules.
This was my idea. x) I suggested they do what they did with that tobacco plant when someone input firefly genes into it and it provided light.
wouldn't the gold nanoparticles have to be applied every spring unless trees can now grow gold
so in the fall/winter my lawn is going to light up?
surely gold couldn't be more expensive and limited than phosphorous powder... especially if the world's cities start coating all their trees in it.
So let me get this straight..... money does grow on trees???? I don't get it, all those years my parents use to tell me it didn't. I should slap them.
REminded me of Avatar...
That's sorta stupid. Anyone caught plucking the leaves from the trees would then be arrested, and when they fall in the autumn, it'd be a free-for all. How about varieties of trees instead are genetically engineered to be bioliuminescent? You get enough of these things glowing together, and you'd have a pretty amazing little project lighting your city streets. And, in the long run it'd be less of a waste of precious metals and less costly.
Where does the energy come from? If they're giving off light, it must be coming from somewhere.
If they actually give off enough light to see clearly by on the streets, that's a lot of energy, and it seems like it would be drawn from the tree's energy reserves, which could kill it.
Or if the gold nanoparticles themselves glow, wouldn't a cheaper solution be to just paint the streets and buildings with glow-in-the-dark paint?
Nonetheless, a fun idea - imagine what our Christmas trees would look like . . .
This sounds too good to be true let alone ever going to happen. Seriously doubt it.
re: falling leaves, most trees in Taiwan don't shed their leaves during the fall/winter. I guess it'd work all right here, but not in countries that actually have four distinct seasons.
I wonder if they could use evergreens so the leaves wouldn't fall every year.
You need to read the article SteelyJoe22.
Greg_NJ . . . thank you for the constructive feedback. Could you please clarify where you think I did not read the article?
It would be better to put the gold or other cheaper reflective material in the roads themselves, and sidewalks. leaves are seasonal.
Anyone know if this is true: If you took all of the gold on Earth it would fit into a standard size football stadium.
@SteelyJoe22, when you asked where the energy is coming from to give off the glow.
"The gold nanoparticles, shaped like sea urchins, put into the leaves of Bacopa caroliniana plants cause chlorophyll to produce the reddish luminescence.
In an added bonus, the luminescence will cause the leaves’ chloroplasts to photosynthesize, which will result in more carbon being captured from the air while the streets are lit. The next steps are to improve the efficiency of the bioluminescence and apply the technology to other biomolecules."
I'm assuming that the natural chemical reactions in the tree itself with the addition of the gold particles creates a chemical reaction that produces bio-luminescence much like deep sea creatures that produce light from their own bodies in an area where there is none.
A tree is a living organism and must be capable of similar processes with the help of the gold...
If the leaves photosynthesized 24/7 while never getting any rest, they would die.
Interesting concept, barely.
I'm with Steelyjoe22, if its making light by reacting with the chlorophyll, then the plant must be loosing energy and a lot of it. Cant be good for the plant.
Thank you Vega_Obscura - you're right; I had missed that.
To tack on to what kickbush is saying, I think we have a better change of bioengineering plants to give off light than to force it via this spray.
actually doing this could take a LOOOOOOOOONG time.
In the linked article, they stated that the nanoparticles produce fluorescence under ultraviolet light. If you have to set up UV lights under every tree, there will be no electricity savings compared to using regular lights. The particles will glow for a little while after the sun sets, but then artificial UV sources must be brought in, or the street will go dark.
Reminds me of a song ... ' goes ...
... Pic-ture your-self, on a boat, on a river, with ...
Wait. So gold+chlorophyll=red bioluminescence? does it only glow when under UV light? Or does the UV light just trigger it, then it becomes self-sustaining?
So many questions. I really wish PopSci was a little more in-depth with their articles. If they're worried about scaring off some of their less-informed readers, perhaps they could implement, on the site only (obviously), a "More Detail" feature that when clicked adds technical details to each appropriate article?
-IMP ;) :)
Not a good idea. What do you do in the winter time when there are no leaves on the trees?
My next kid is gonna be "in vitro" ...
... He's gonna be a boy ... blonde ... blue eyes and oh, yeah, ... He's gonna glow in the dark ! ...
... Poor kid is gonna get creamed, in Laser Tag, tho.
Although the idea of glowing trees sounds cool, the idea of having to implant gold nano particles into the leaves sounds like an incredible waste of time and money. I would think trying to engineer a tree that is bio-luminescent would be cheaper and easier.
hmmm..... seems like a good idea, but who on earth would want to sit there and inject nanoparticles into each and every leaf on a tree?? We need to come up with a geneticly engineered bioluminescent breed of tree. If we did that, we could plant these things left and right around trafic and whatnot, and i'd plant'um all over my yard. It would be good for the envirenment, save energy, and... well it would just be plain AWESOME! I hope that someone with the knoledge and equipment to do this decides to.
hmm will there be heavy metal poisoning effects if those trees were ingested? will it accumulate in food chain through time?
The gold nanoparticles wouldn't be as expensive as they seem because they are nanoparticle. Nano means 1/1000000000. So these are really small particles. I wish popsci gave more information.
I can imagine that would have some serious environmental ramifications. The birds and insects might steer clear from it, like they do to non-native plants, not to mention how it might affect the trees themselves (it's a foreign invasive object--just like implants or any other invaders in us make our bodies try to eject them), and it would appear that you could only put them in evergreens, lest it be a waste of time when the leaves fall.
The linked article also says that the nanoparticles stimulate the red glow from the trees under ultraviolet light. First: how is setting up Black Lights for this more Sustainable than regular street lamps? How is a red glow going to be safer than focused beam lighting on streets at night? Finally, are the photos you're seeing actually from the experiment, or is it just a pretty photo from sometime during the day...that doesn't look like a red glow! And instead of that golden glow, it would be red in the cities...sounds like Nightmare on Elm Street.