Leave a Light On: Glowing Trees to Replace Street Lamps?

Light pollution from street lamps is one of the major concerns in and around urban centers, and the cost of electricity to power those lamps runs far higher than just financial. No matter what type of lighting is used for street lights, the pollution and costs associated with them leave us looking for a better solution.

(image via: TLC-Systems)

We obviously can’t stop providing light outdoors, so what is the next best thing? How about modifying our natural surroundings to light our way for us? A group of researchers in Taiwan recently realized that adding gold nanoparticles to tree leaves would make the trees give off a luminous glow. The illumination is softer and far less polluting than traditional light bulbs and even LEDs.

Implanting gold nanoparticles into trees could one day be an environmentally friendly alternative to LEDs, which contain toxic phosphorus powder and are quite expensive. In theory, using trees as street lamps would also cut down on light pollution as well as air pollution as the luminescent trees would absorb CO2. The team behind the research acknowledges that the technology needs to improve significantly before glowing trees would replace street lights, but we’re looking forward to taking a walk by tree-light someday.

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See more in Earth & Nature or under Science. December, 2010.