How Many Greenies Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Last week we saw some news about a new plant that has been genetically engineered to emit light – Bioglow’s ‘Starlight Avatar’. This plant has a life span of a few months and is currently up for auction as a prototype.

Normally I’d start banging on about the risks of genetically engineering plants – but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the topic is emotionally and politically charged and I’m never certain what to believe, although millions of bees dropping dead in Canada is something to worry about…

Bioglow-Plants-4-537x357

Bioglow’s Starlight Avatar. Click me for the source.

What I’m curious about here is the eventual application of plants that glow… I’ve long imagined indoor plants that give us light to read by, magically re-distributing the light that they’ve harvested during the day. The trend can be easily plotted to indoor-outdoor gardens that glow and light our way, a true blending of architecture and landscape.

Another relatively new kid on the block is the OLED, Organic LEDs. These are a surface-emitting light source rather than a globe, so in effect the walls themselves can glow.

Oled lighting panel

Siemens / Osram’s OLED. Click for source.

This technology will eventually yield clear windows that then glow at night, interior surfaces that light our way, and even furniture that gives us light… the possibilities are endless.

If I were to pit the glowing plant against the OLED I’d be inclined to pick the OLED simply because the tech is more progressed and the applications broader. In reality I’d put my money on both with the glowing plant having a longer timescale (they’d need to gen-eng controllability as well) – we may eventually live in a world of light with no light globes at all. And this will all be realised much sooner than we think as night-time economies grow in response to a whole range of pressures.

So the answer to the riddle? The prosaic answer of today is simply ‘one’, but in our near future it may be ‘what light globe?’.

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