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Science & Tech

Future Cities Lit by Beautiful Bioluminescent Trees

A laboratory at Stony Brook University, working with designer Dann Roosegaarde, has developed a glowing plant by merging luciferin–which is the chemical that enables fireflies to glow–with a simple plant. The result is a plant, in dirt, that glows. Naturally.

And it is awesome.

Roosegaarde, a self-described designer/artist/architect from the Netherlands, pronounced his vision for the future of technology incorporation at the 2014 SXSW in Austin, Texas.

His concept is based on “merging worlds of nature and technology” by taking what we can learn from nature and applying that to the world through the building of technology–namely, the urban landscape.

In fact, he says, this marriage of our super- and sans-natural environment will drive the perception of technology to “completely disappear” and humans will not longer rely exclusively on screens to gain information and utility.

“What can we learn from that?” Roosegaarde asks. As it turns out, a lot.

Take lighting, for example. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an independent organization, lighting–including street lights across America’s millions of miles of urban routes–accounts for more than 1/5 of all commercial energy consumption.

So while we humans use a massive amount of generated electricity to defeat darkness, Jellyfish create their own light deep underwater without solar panels, wind turbines, or hydroelectric dams. Instead, the organism generates power completely autonomously.

Cue Roosegaarde’s project: His vision is realized by transforming a magnificent aspect of our human mechanical world where we can replace centuries-old, energy-guzzling street lamps with beautifully glowing trees.

The concept makes sense–and is unimaginably cool:

Bioluminescent Tree rendering in farm plain.

Bioluminescent Tree rendering in urban street scape

“I mean, come on,” Roosegaarde adds, “that will be incredibly fascinating to have this energy neutral, but at the same time, this very poetic landscape.”

Yes, it wood be.


Top photo: RyansWorld: Billings, Montana on Future Wikia // Body photos: Screenshots of Zeen Vimeo video

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    Written by Maxwell Morgan

    Maxwell was a Coordinator of Digital Engagement for The State University of New York.




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    There are 15 comments

  • Awesome, who knows how this could permanently throw off the balance of nature if it spreads to the forests.

  • Micah J Zayner says:

    Where is the picture of the glowing plant?!?!?!?

  • I was searching for lighting design blogs and came across this. Coolest research ever!!! I will be sharing this with my friends. Faith in humanity restored.

  • we keep hearing of all this new cool technology that’s gonna change the world but nothing make it to production ,it’s all a hipe for nothing

    • Because it needs investment and major funding for a long period of time, since alternative energy only benefits humanity (not the 1% or the politicians currently). Run out of oil and people will jump on alternative energy REAL fast, everyone will. Until then, we’re a ticking time bomb.

  • keville says:

    Bioluminescence evolved for signaling other creatures with eyeballs, not for illuminating the surrounding area.

    I shudder to think about how intensely bright a tree would have to glow to cast any useful light on its surroundings.

    It’d be like staring at a giant 2,000-Watt incandescent lightbulb, with no cover providing direction for the light.

  • rkhassen says:

    Only problem is, once you let the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, you can’t put it back in. What if you like dark nights? Seeing the stars? I like reversible technology. Who knows how this could permanently throw off the balance of nature if it spreads to the forests. It seems cool, but like a tattoo, you are stuck for a long time with it, and in this case perhaps generations.

  • jinzang says:

    What happens in autumn, after the leaves fall off the trees?

    • Jake says:

      In the northern climates the leaves fall off the trees. In a GMO all cells of the organism contain the gene of interest and should always be “on” unless under some regulatory promoter only expressed in leaves. Otherwise,as long as the tree is alive the gene will be on.

  • MaryMasterson says:

    Awesome. Just don’t let Monsanto get a hold of this technology. Glow in the dark apples!

  • dray says:

    Nice information! its cool to know something like this. thank you!

  • Edwin Carpenter says:

    This is a cool research! I hope we can see this in the near future. This research will save a lot on our energy consumption. Also, this will help us stop global warming. Thank you for this post.

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