The Future of Bioluminscent Plants and Trees

Fans of going green have a new hero in Chinese researcher  Dr, Yen-Hsun Wu who has discovered a new secret in the field of luminescence. As far fetched as it may seem, it was discovered that by implanting gold nanoparticles in the leaves of trees can induce luminescence in them. What that means in basic terms is that the fusion of mineral particles with a leafy plant can make the plant’s leaves glow in the dark.

The discovery was not by accident entirely as research in the field of bioluminescence is hardly anything new. What has always been slow going is matching a stimulant agent, in this case gold nanoparticles, with a plant that responds to the stimulus in  productive way. That all tales a considerable amount of time making the process something which for most would be beyond tedious. When results are successful, as in the case, the discovery can potentially be world altering.

Why the discovery is said to have the potential to be world altering is due to the long reaching ramifications that are now possible. Imagine driving down a street where there are no streetlights, but rather rows of strong healthy oak trees whose leaves shed enough to illuminate the road. Imagine the global reduction of power demand if just applied in that one way? Imagine not needing lamps in your home because a plant on the end table does the job just as effectively. The possibilities are mind blowing and awesome – and for now they are just possibilities,

Currently, gold nanoparticles implants have only been tested on Bacopa caroliniana plants and shown luminescence. There are still slews more to try, but it is possible not all plants or trees will respond as positively. In the Bacopa caroliniana plants that were studied, high wavelength ultraviolet light triggered the transformation by creating  blue-violet fluorescence.

As exciting as it all is, the reality of luminescent plants grown on demand may be decades away under the best case scenario. Everyone involved with the project along with the RSC have been very cautious to make a point of being clear that while this is a major discovery, there is no knowledge of how tinkering with nature may impact the growth and life-cycle of plants and trees, how long the effect may last, or in general anything beyond the discovery itself.