Engineers develop glowing plants that may replace lamps

A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) added glowing plants to their list of plant nanobionics projects, which currently include plants that can detect explosives and plants that can monitor drought conditions. With a goal to engineer plants that could one day perform the tasks of current electrical devices, the team’s glowing plants targets the world’s energy consumption on lighting.
To create their glowing plants, the researchers used luciferase, which is the very enzyme that causes fireflies to glow, and coenzyme A, which is a molecule that removes a reaction by-product that could hinder luciferase activity. To infuse the nanoparticles carrying luciferin, luciferase, and coenzyme A molecules into the plant leaves, researchers immersed the plants in the solution with the molecules and then exposed it to high pressure so that the molecules will enter the leaves through its pores called the stomata. Once inside the plant, luciferase can work to make the plant glow.
At the beginning of the project, researchers successfully created plants that could glow for up to 45 minutes, but they have been able to improve that time up to three and a half hours. So far, a 10-centimetre watercress plant could only create a small amount of light needed to be able to read, but researchers believe they can significantly improve both light brightness and duration by adjusting the concentration of the components.
The study was funded by the US Department of Energy and is published in the journal Nano Letters.