Feature

Glow-in-the-dark trees could be the future of street lighting

Algae holds the secret

Each week, we spotlight a cool innovation recommended by some of the industry's top tech writers. This week's pick is bioluminescent trees.

"Imagine a city lit by glowing trees instead of streetlights," said Adele Peters at Fast Company​. Beachgoers in San Diego were recently treated to the rare natural phenomenon of a bioluminescent algae bloom, making the ocean glow "an electric shade of blue" at night. Researchers in Denmark are attempting to isolate the genes that make such microalgae glow to see whether trees could be genetically engineered with the genes in order to make natural streetlights.

Kristian Ejlsted, the CEO of Copenhagen startup Allumen, said if cities could switch out older lighting technology or even newer LED lights for gene-edited glowing trees, energy costs would shrink enormously. The project is still "far from reality," but the company is also developing a lava lamp-like product for home use, "with algae living in a saltwater-nutrient mixture, taking up sunshine during the day and glowing at night."

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