“We don’t live in nature any more – we put boxes around it. But now we can actually engineer nature to sustain our needs. All we have to do is design the code and it will self-create. Our visions today – if we can encapsulate them in a seed – [will] grow to actually fulfill that vision.” - Andrew Hessel in a recent ArchDaily interview
“Engineering nature to sustain our needs” is exactly what the Glowing Plant Project aims to do. Synthetic biologist Omri Amirav-Drory, plant scientist Kyle Taylor and project leader Antony Evans are working together to engineer “a glow-in-the-dark plant using synthetic biology techniques that could possibly replace traditional lighting” – and perhaps even create glow-in-the-dark trees that would supplant (pun intended) the common street light.
How is this possible? Read on to find out.
Bioluminescence – the production and emission of light by a living organism – is the overarching concept of the Glowing Plant Project, whose team members are essentially injecting flowering plants with genes for bioluminescence. The approach can be divided into three basic steps: design, print and transform. The design phase consists of creating the DNA sequence of the first glowing plant using a software called Genome Compiler. The print phase includes printing the DNA at Cambrian Genomics, the first hardware/system for laser printing DNA. Lastly, the transform phase consists of transforming that custom DNA into the target plant in the Glowing Plant Lab in California. The team hopes to then ship glowing plant seeds to those who support their cause, allowing for a more hands-on experience with the new technology and its mass reproduction.
“The Glowing Plant is a symbol of the future, a symbol of sustainability and a symbol to inspire others to create new, living things,” says project leader Antony Evans. Inspired by fireflies and aquatic bioluminescence, Evans calls these methods “off-the-shelf” and old news in the biological world; the ends to which these methods are being utilized, however, might be revolutionary.
Earlier attempts to make a self-sustainable and vibrantly-glowing plant have been rather unsuccessful, but with the necessary funding, Glowing Plant believes it can eventually create a product that will forever change the concept of lighting. Instead of consuming huge amounts of limited energy and producing as much carbon dioxide as cars, glowing plant technology could produce its own energy and oxygen, impacting the Earth in a positive way. No longer inorganic and inefficient, lights could one day be just as alive as we are, further blurring the line between nature and technology in a new and exciting way.
To read more about the Glowing Plant project and to donate to the cause, click here.