Glowing trees to replace street lights? Impractical, says Aussie scientist

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MELBOURNE - An Australian scientist has said that a radical idea to replace street lamps with trees that glow in the dark may not be as practical as it sounds.

Yen-Hsun Su of the Research Centre for Applied Science in Taiwan last year floated the idea of injecting leaves with gold nanoparticles in a bid to reduce power costs and CO2 emissions, reports

“In the future, bio-LED could be used to make roadside trees luminescent at night,” he told Chemistry World in November.

“This will save energy and absorb CO2 as the bio-LED luminescence will cause the chloroplast to conduct photosynthesis,” he added.

Su and his team came upon the idea while looking for ways to create efficient lighting without using toxic or expensive chemicals such as phosphor powder.

Testing on Bacopa caroliniana plants, they found that shining ultraviolet light on leaves injected with gold nanoparticles triggered a red emission in the chlorophyll.

However, John Stride, an associate professor at the UNSW School of Chemistry, said that while the logic seemed sound, the real-world application might be more difficult.

Stride said one potential problem with Su’s plan was if the light-emission effect used up energy reserves needed by the plants to prosper.

“If one were to impregnate leaves of urban trees with hybrid-nanoparticle type materials, would the loss of the trees warrant the ‘cheap’ or ‘novel’ lighting?” he said.

“How about autumn? With gold-filled leaves - albeit very small quantities per leaf - money would literally be first growing on trees and then falling off them.

“It may provoke local authorities to clean up fallen leaves more effectively, however,” Stride added. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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