Science

Gold nanoparticles turn trees into streetlights

Gold nanoparticles turn trees ...
We might someday be using glowing trees as streetlights thanks to a discovery by Dr. Yen-Hsun Su (Image: Daniel Schwen)
We might someday be using glowing trees as streetlights thanks to a discovery by Dr. Yen-Hsun Su (Image: Daniel Schwen)
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We might someday be using glowing trees as streetlights thanks to a discovery by Dr. Yen-Hsun Su (Image: Daniel Schwen)
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We might someday be using glowing trees as streetlights thanks to a discovery by Dr. Yen-Hsun Su (Image: Daniel Schwen)

The discovery that gold nanoparticles can induce luminescence in leaves has opened up the prospect of using roadside trees as streetlights. Post-doctor Yen-Hsun Su of Research Center for Applied Science (RCAS), Academia Sinica, Taiwan, implanted gold nanoparticles into Bacopa caroliniana plants and found that, when exposed to high wavelength ultraviolet light, the gold nanoparticles can produce a blue-violet fluorescence that triggers a red emission of the surrounding chlorophyll.

Dr. Yen-Hsun Su is a former student of the Department of Physics at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan where he was supervised by Prof. Wei-Min Zhang of Department of Physics and Assistant Prof. Shih-Hui Chang of Institute of Electro-Optical Science and Engineering.

Upon learning of the discovery, Assistant Prof. Shih-Hui Chang said: “Light emitting diode (LED) has replaced traditional light source in many display panels and street lights on the road. A lot of light emitting diode, especially white light emitting diode, uses phosphor powder to stimulate light of different wavelengths. However, phosphor powder is highly toxic and its price is expensive. As a result, Dr. Yen-Hsun Wu had the idea to discover a method which is less toxic to replace phosphor powder which can harm human bodies and cause environmental pollution. This is a major motivation for him to engage in the research at the first place.”

Prof. Wei-Min Zhang, Assistant Prof. Shih-Hui Chang and Dr. Yen-Hsun Su have emphasized that the technologies and bioluminescence efficiency need to be improved for the trees to replace street lights in the future and reach the goal of energy saving and environmental protection, but Dr. Yen-Hsun Su is hopeful.

“In the future, bio-LED could be used to make roadside trees luminescent at night. This will save energy and absorb CO2 as the bio-LED luminescence will cause the chloroplast to conduct photosynthesis,” said Dr. Yen-Hsun Su in an interview with Chemistry World.

16 comments
Soumitra Bhattacharjee
Using bioluminiscence to induce plants to conduct photosynthesis seems like a great idea but is it really intelligent to do so ? Plants give off CO2 at night as a result of their own metabolic cycle and tampering with the circadian cycle (as is the human habit of tampering with all of nature\'s cycles) of plants is going to create more problems.
n3r0
This may be an interesting effect, but what is the point of shining ultraviolet light on trees just so they can glow. How is that any more efficient than using ultra-efficient LED\'s in the first place?
SiGMA
@Soumitra We don\'t need to tamper with all trees in nature. We can plant a few ones on the streets and make\'em to glow, there\'s no need to make the Amazonia florest to glow lol
Edward Ramos
Pandora? From the movie Avatar! What could possibly go wrong?
Ken Rowland
...of course...why da ya think we had black lights at \'60s hairy buffalo keg pAHties...we\'d always light up the trees...geez...oh, those were my tree-trunk legs in the bell-bottoms...under the black lights...you say? ooops, i digress...
David Yuan
Glowing trees can save energy. We don\'t have use any energy to light up our streets in the dark of night. Especially in the age of global warming today, save more energy means lessen carbon in the atmosphere. So that this discovery can save our planet just like any alternative energy. Do you guys understand?
Boret
Now all my Hip-Hop neighbors are gonna want a bling tree next to their crib.
Roberta Wilson
Try this site. I love it! Especially the comments section.
Kiumars Q. Amiri
The purpose is not to plant glowing trees and make our streets pretty. Think beyond that. The vast amount of energy we could potentially save is one of the most important accomplishments of this study. The results of this discovery can enormously reduce Light Pollution, and as a result, the negative impacts of it on the environment, ecological systems, and human health (mental and physical). This is amazing.
Mr Stiffy
Hmmm - why do journalists ever so frequently write in the presumptive and speculative - and when you think it through, it\'s usually about dumb things; i.e. \"We might someday be using glowing trees as streetlights thanks to a discovery by Dr. Yen-Hsun Su\" Then you get comments from people who don\'t do the \"2 2\" link - of many trees are deciduous (annual leave droppers), although they may not be the target species, gold is expensive ($$$$$), and they have to aim high frequency Ultra Violet light at the trees (lights power) just to make the trees glow. Sure it\'s an interesting discovery, and the relative power levels are not discussed etc., but simple issues are not raised like how many lumens of UV are put into an entire tree, and how many lumens does the tree give out. As far as messing with the tree like that - I am doubtful that the tree is really happy about getting messed with. Again - it\'s more of that \"Oh I have an idea\" and the journalists dream up more pie in the sky bullshit to sell the story..... \"\"One day entire cities may be lit by soaking all the trees in ultraviolet, by injecting 10,000 tons of gold into them annually, by driving the UV lights with enough electricity at double the amount and cost of regular street lighting....\" Got the hand on more than just the pen.