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MIT’s glowing plants now glow 10 times brighter – the trick was to swap luciferin for phosphors

Shiny plants They are nothing new, for years they have experimented with different methods to make them glow in the dark like lamps. It can also be useful to send danger or warning signals for farmers as we have seen on occasion. The problem? They don’t shine as bright as we would like. Until now, as MIT’s new generation of bright plants shine 10 times more than before.

We saw the first proposal from MIT in 2017, when they presented us with the modified shiny plants with luciferin particles inside. Luciferin is present in organisms like fireflies and allows them to illuminate in the dark. However, these modified MIT plants barely illuminated, with a glow similar to the typical plastic stars that are pasted into the ceilings of children’s rooms.

From Luciferin to Phosphorous Particles

Now MIT researchers have managed to considerably increase that brightness by exchanging luciferin for another material. Specifically, by different phosphorescent materials. These materials absorb and store visible and ultraviolet light, then slowly release it as phosphorescence.


The team of researchers used nanoparticles made of strontium aluminate that were coated by silica so that they do not harm the plants. Later they were introduced into the plants through the pores of the leaves until finally a layer was created inside with these nanoparticles.

The result is glowing plants in the dark. For this, they first need to be exposed to the Sun or to an LED light. With 10 seconds of exposure to a blue LED light can get them to illuminate for an hour in the dark. Of course, as time goes by, the brightness diminishes since little by little it loses its brightness.

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In addition to being a more brilliant method, MIT indicates that this new process does not harm plants or limit their vital functions such as photosynthesis or the evaporation of water through the pores.

So far, although much progress has been made in this regard, there is still much more until we have street lamp plants in the city. The researchers are now going to try to combine these phosphor nanoparticles with luciferin nanoparticles to achieve a longer lasting shine. It would also be necessary to see what is the cost of implementing this en masse and not only in laboratory plants.

Via | MIT