MIT researchers create bright plants that emit light

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Engineers say this is a big step towards plant-based lighting.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a light-emitting powerhouse that can be charged by an LED.

These plants can produce light 10 times brighter than the researcher’s first generation of plants reported in 2017.

You might be wondering what a glowing plant can do for the world, or why this is important.

The short answer: energy.

“We wanted to create an electroluminescent plant with particles that will absorb light, store some of it and gradually emit it,” said Michael Strano, Carbon P. Dubbs professor of chemical engineering at MIT and lead author of the new study. , said in a press release. “It’s a big step towards herbal lighting. “

After 10 seconds of charging, the plants glow intensely for several minutes, according to the MIT researchers, and can even be recharged multiple times.

This breakthrough “represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about living plants and electric power for lighting,” said Sheila Kennedy, professor of architecture at MIT and author of the article who worked with the group. Strano on herbal lighting.

Nanoparticles used in plants to emit light can also increase the light output of any other type of light emitting plant. This includes the first generation of light plants that use nanoparticles containing the enzyme, luciferase, which is found in fireflies to produce light.

The Strano laboratory has been working for several years in the new field of plant nano bionics. The laboratory aims to give plants new functionalities by integrating them with different types of nanoparticles.

How to make a plant shine?

The particles, which measure several hundred nanometers in diameter, can be infused into plants through stomata – small pores located on the surface of leaves, engineers say.

MIT researchers observed that after 10 seconds of exposure to the blue LED, their plants could emit light for about an hour. The light was brightest for the first five minutes, then gradually faded.

Another positive side of this research is that engineers found that over a 10-day period, plants were still able to photosynthesize normally and evaporate water through their stomata.

“After the experiments were completed, the researchers were able to extract about 60% of the phosphorus in plants and reuse it in another plant,” the researchers said in a statement.

The researchers are now working to combine their 2017 study with this new data in the hopes that they can produce plants that produce even brighter light for longer periods of time.

The push for light-emitting plants comes as researchers find new ways to use renewable energy.

In April, engineers at Purdue University created the whitest paint to date in an effort to combat global warming, researchers said. They hope that “coating buildings with this ultra-white paint will one day cool them sufficiently to reduce the need for air conditioning.”

The paint is not only whiter than previous experiments, but it can also keep surfaces cooler than the formulation researchers previously demonstrated.

“If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of ​​about 1,000 square feet, we estimate you could get 10 kilowatts of cooling power. It’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most homes, ”Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering said.

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