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​MIT Engineers Create Plants With Bioluminescent Capabilities
Dec 20, 2017

MIT engineers create plants with bioluminescent capabilities


The road ahead may be illuminated by glowing trees rather than street lights. MIT engineers have created plants that have the ability to glow. The researchers injected a special nanoparticle into the leaves of the watercress, leaving the plant shinning for four hours.

To create glowing plants, MIT engineers used an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase can act on fluorescein molecules, causing it to shine. Another molecule called Coenzyme A helps in this process by eliminating a reaction by-product that inhibits luciferase activity.

MIT team loads these chemistries onto different nanocarriers. Nanoparticles help the enzyme reach the correct position of the plant, but it also prevents the enzyme from forming a plant-toxic concentrate. The watercress plant finally emits the same light as a desk lamp.

The researchers believe that through further adjustments, the technology can also get enough brightness to provide lighting in the workplace or even an entire street, but also for low-intensity indoor lighting. Michael Strano, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "We wanted plants to be used as a desk lamp, and no need to plug it in. The light ultimately came from the energy that the plant itself produces.

He adds: "Our research opens the door to new street lights and interior lighting that comes entirely from specially treated plants, and oxidase, which is a luciferase enzyme, is present in many bioluminescent plants." Firefly can Luminescence occurs through a chemical reaction, during which luciferin is converted to luciferin by luciferase. The reaction process is very efficient, which means that almost all the energy involved in the reaction has quickly turned to light.

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