Will Luminous Trees be our Future Street Lights?

It may sound lightyears ahead, but in the near future, bioluminescent trees could easily replace Street Lights. Or would it be the road itself lighting the way? Bioluminescence, the ability of small organisms to behave like living night-lights, could lead to some remarkable advances in the public space. Here are some of the greatest examples we’ve ever seen!

Bioluminescence – The Invention

Bioluminescence was “invented” dozens of times in evolutionary history. Scientists may now be able to explain not only why certain mushrooms glow in the dark, but they are nearer to create glowing trees as a novel form of street lighting.

Swapping streetlights with giant light-emitting plants or trees using biomimicry techniques by Daan Roosegaarde.

Daan Roosegaarde – Lighting the Way

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde – known from astonishing projects such as ‘Waterlight‘ and ‘Rainbow Station‘, among many others – is hoping to employ biomimicry to transform your average street-side trees into beacons of light. Like the luminescent abilities of jellyfish, mushrooms or fireflies, splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria would open a world of opportunities!

Glow in the Dark

Naturalists in the early 19th century identified fungal growth as the source of the glow from wooden support beams used to shore up mines. Many fungi and mushrooms are now known to glow in the dark, and explanations for why they do it range from it being a useless by-product of metabolism to a sophisticated anti-predator adaptation. The best explanation seems to be that the night-light attracts insects and other animals to the fruiting bodies of fungi, who then spread the spores far and wide.

Glowing ‘Van Gogh Bicycle Path’ by Daan Roosegaarde

Fireflies

Fireflies are likely the best known example of bioluminescence in nature. The insect controls the light it emits from its light organ by adding oxygen to a mix of other chemicals involved in the light-emitting reaction. As larvae, the light acts as a warning to predators that they don’t taste very nice, and as adults the light is used to identify members of the same species and to attract the opposite sex.

Bioluminescence – The Future!

I am thrilled to see how bioluminescent technology finds its way in various in- and outdoor applications and how it contributes to a safer world! I am sure this is just the beginning of many more to come!

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Lighting Up the Night – Fireflies Blazing Beautiful Patterns in the Dark

Remember watching fireflies light up your back yard on hot summer nights? Fireflies are beautiful, mysterious, and magical. Firefly populations are dwindling all over the world. Here’s a small post on these magical creatures – the most efficient lights in the world!

Fireflies Talk: the Language of Light

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. Howeer, in most situations the both sexes glow. Very often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

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Scientists believe they may flash to drive away predators, claim territory, and communicate with others of their species as well—although the finer points of their language have never been studied extensively. One thing’s for sure, though: without those flashing lights, there could be no fireflies.

Fireflies produce “cold light”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

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Fireflies – How does it Work?

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

Fireflies have a short ‘Lifespan’

To stay a bit in ‘the language of light’: the lifespan of fireflies isn’t that long as you may expect. Although being very low consumers of energy with a high eficacy, an adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

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Fireflies – what’s more?

There’s certainly many more to say about these intriguing creatures, but let’s finish with a great movie with night and day timelapses and some references. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in the phenomenon of ‘bioluminescence’, I can recommend you reading one of my other posts ‘Bioluminescent Plankton Create Magical Blue Imagery at Night‘.

The stunning time-lapse images in this article were created by photographer and Artist Tsuneaki Hiramatsu for the Daily Mail.

Bioluminescent Plankton at Night Create Magical Blue Imagery

Light by Living Organism. It may seem magical, and it is!

A mystical sight – but what you see is true: a long stretch of a beach covered by billions of luminous blue dots. The seemingly magical imagery is actually anything but it is caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton.

Glowing like Fireflies

The tiny Plankton organisms glow like fireflies whenever they are stressed or otherwise agitated by surface tension and acidity. usually, bioluminescence is only produced in warm coastal waters. This happens commonly in some of the beaches in the Maldives and San Diego, where most the pictures and movie shots in this post are taken.

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Emitting Light when Stressed

The surreal appearance of the beach is actually down to a massive tide of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum. The tiny organisms emit light when stressed, be it by the lapping of waves, the carving action of a surf board or other, creating what looks like a network of stars.

Bioluminescence – The Phenomenon

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Bioluminescence is a form of luminescence, or “cold light” emission by living organisms. A similar luciferase is used in other bioluminescence species such as fireflies, a few beetles, some bacteria, as well as other dinoflagellates. Less than 20% of the light generates thermal radiation.

Bioluminescence – The Function

The function of bioluminescence in has been hypothesized to be a form of communication between each of the organisms. Early work suggested it might serve as a warning system of sheer forces of near by preditors, more recent work suggests it might play a role in maintaining and synchronizing circadian rhythm (internal cell clock, for keeping track of cell cycle).

Hope you got as impressed as I am. Once, I hope to see this intriguing phenomenon live on stage!