Christmas Trees of the Future

Fri, 24 Dec 2010 12:16:25 +0000


Soon, we’ll no longer have to put up those strands of little blinking lights on our Christmas trees because the trees will already be lit!

In “Bioluminescent Christmas Trees?,” Robert Krulwich of NPR writes on November 30, 2010, that Dr. Yen-Hsun Su of the Research Center for Applied Science in Taiwan has bioengineered a way to make a tree that glows.

Dr. Su is interested in traffic lights. He was trying to come up with a more efficient light emitting diode to enhance street lighting in Taiwan. He decided to dump the phosphor powder normally used in LEDs and switch to gold nanoparticles. Then, he implanted the tiny tiny gold particles into a living plant.

The plant he chose is a common aquatic herb called Bacopa caroliniana:

When the gold went in, the leaves began to glow. The chlorophyll produced a “red emission” when exposed to ultraviolet light. The gold nanoparticles got the plant to light up the way those deep sea creatures do at the bottom of the ocean.

Taiwanese scientists now plan to apply this bioluminescent technology to bigger plants. They hope to create trees along roads that one day could replace or enhance street lights.

So someday, maybe in our lifetime, we’ll see Christmas trees in our living rooms glowing from within.


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