What’s next? Algae lamps!

Proper lighting at night is required for safety along road and pathways. Many need electricity to run at night. Although many places have transitioned to LED lighting, the most energy efficient lighting currently available, to cut down on the energy use of street lamps, but a renewable energy source for the lighting would be ideal.

Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark think there is a better solution: one that requires no electricity at all but could still illuminate city streets: algae.

Bioluminescent microalgae exist throughout warm parts of the world’s oceans. The above image is one of biolminescence along a costline in Asis.

The source of the bioluminescence is two molecules: luciferase (an enzyme) and luciferin (a molecule produced by photosynthesis). These molecules are activated by a chemical reaction triggered by movement such as the crashing of waves upon the shore or a passing fish.

When this reaction occurs, the algae emit a blue light, but it’s only for a moment.

The research team believes that the genes for bioluminescence could be isolated and then transferred to other, larger plant organisms that could be used to provide a continual source of blue light at night. An algae-based lamp would work like a solar cell and battery storage combo where solar energy during the day is converted into fuel for the organism which it stores and then uses to emit blue light at night.

If this gene transference can be done, these bio-lamps could be used to light up parking garages, buildings, shop windows and highways. The resulting light will be a bluish hue, which will change the way our cities and towns look at night but it will also be an electricity-free and carbon neutral source of light. Here is an example of how those living lights might look like:

Image result for algae lights

This is how it would work:

The researchers are trying to identify those genes that cause bioluminescence. The next step would be figuring out how the transfer those genes and then cause the plants to emit light continually during the night and without the trigger of movement.

So what may be next in your house or office? Living light based on bioluminescence!


Mark van Engelen is founder Nya Sustainability Consulting, a consulting firm helping organizations implement sustainability. Services include sustainability strategy development, zero waste planning, GHG emissions calculating and planning, energy/water management, employee engagement and guidance in B Corp and carbon neutral certification.




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