The Null Device
A private group of genetic engineers in the US have a plan to create light-emitting plants for “sustainable natural lighting”. The plants will include the luciferase gene, as present in fireflies and genetically modified rabbits commissioned by artists; the ultimate aim is to provide a better than carbon-neutral replacement for street lights and household lamps.
To create the glowing plants, the team will first generate modified genes with the Genome Compiler software, then insert them into Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage (they make sure to point out that the plant is not edible). The main gene, luciferase, is the same one that makes fireflies light up the night.As luciferase is not sufficiently bright to light a street, or even a living room, the project will require optimisation; the engineers already have enhanced the gene's light output to an extent.
A Kickstarter campaign was started to fund the research, with those (in the US) contributing $40 or more to receive a packet of glowing plant seeds in return. To day, the campaign, which aimed for $65,000, has raised $216,536, with 33 days to go.
It'll be interesting to see if this is successful; will we see streets lit by fluorescing trees, or find ourselves putting a plantshade over the bedside plant when going to sleep? And will plants that emit a useful amount of light need to be fed large quantities of a sufficiently high-energy plant food to keep glowing?