Glowing Plant: Light up Future Cities with Bioluminescence



From the Author,

Thinking about the future for me is like thinking about the state of the environment, technological developments, and human survival. Along with the development of science and technology, humans increasingly understand the importance of protecting the environment and resources so that they can continue to support life in the future.

The idea for writing this essay came when I saw a street view in an urban area that was filled with street lights, causing a lot of light pollution at night. I imagined how these cities would change in the year 2100. My mind wandered far and led to a futuristic city that combines the concepts of technology and nature using environmental engineering.

I hope that the readers can realize that there are many things around us that may seem normal and fine but actually have an unfavorable impact. What do you think when you see the street lamp shining in the dark night? Nothing wrong right? But now the use of street lights is too excessive to be categorized as light pollution. I want readers not to be afraid of imagining and dreaming, because from there, brilliant ideas will be created that seem small at first but can be developed into big inventions.

The light was originally invented by Thomas Alva Edison in 1879. For nearly two centuries, humans have depended on lamps for illumination when night falls. The use of lamps from year to year is increasing, initially only as lighting in homes to become the main source of lighting in cities and streets. This will have a negative impact on the environment such as light pollution, disturbance to animals that depend on natural lighting at night, and reduced land for greenery due to street lights.

Scientists are trying to create a future utopia in which advanced urban conditions still pay attention to environmental aspects such as using land as effectively as possible for greening. On the energy-use side, lighting accounts for around 20% of energy consumption worldwide, so replacing it with natural bioluminescent plants would represent a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Scientists have been experimenting with making trees with bioluminescent capabilities. However, the tree is only able to emit light for 4 hours. This research is proof that there is still hope for creating natural lighting sources to replace lamps to reduce light pollution.


Cities in 2100 rarely use street lamps as the main lighting. This role is replaced by bioluminescent trees that can emit their own light. Scientists managed to combine the DNA of a fungus containing luciferin with the DNA of a tree so that the tree can glow. Light pollution produced by street lights can be reduced because basically bioluminescent trees emit light that is dimmer than street lights. The tree also only glows at night because of the ability of the photoreceptors to distinguish between day and night. In addition, this innovation is also a solution to the problem of lack of land for greening in urban areas where more and more trees are being planted to replace the function of street lights.

The use of bioluminescent trees also serves to add to the aesthetic value of the road. Drivers tend to get sleepy when driving with relatively the same street view, but with these illuminated trees the driver will be more awake because the trees have different shapes and produce varied views at every corner of the road. With this, it is hoped that the number of accidents due to driver negligence can be avoided.

Apart from that, scientists have also engineered the tree so that it can produce tree seeds with bioluminescent capabilities as well so that in the following years there is no need to engineer trees so they can emit their own light. Of course, tree populations that do not have bioluminescent ability must also be maintained so as not to result in overpopulation of bioluminescent trees which will eventually cause light pollution.

By using bioluminescent trees, nocturnal animals can adapt better. These animals have always had problems with light pollution caused by humans. The light produced by bioluminescent plants will not interfere with the activities of these animals because the light produced tends to be not as bright as lamp light.

Entering a smaller scale of use, the use of bioluminescent is not only applied to large trees, small plants can also be engineered so they can emit their own light. For the use of bioluminescent in small plants, there is no need to use genetic engineering, but simply by spraying a substance that can make the plants glow so that the price can be more economical. So that these plants do not glow continuously, scientists use the concept of tigmotropism from the Mimosa pudica plant which is applied to ornamental plants which function as a natural switch so that people just by touching the leaves of the plant, the bioluminescent effect will be extinguished. If there is a power outage, this small plant functions as an alternative lamp in people's homes and as a natural flashlight. This step can help reduce the use of fuel oil by backup power generators and reduce chemical waste due to the use of flashlight batteries. Scientists who have always advocated reducing the use of fuel oil can actually be applied in small ways such as replacing back-up electric generators with bioluminescent plants. Apart from that, chemical wastes that are usually produced can also be reduced considering that people have switched to bioluminescent plants as a substitute for ordinary flashlights.

People are already more dependent on bioluminescent plants than conventional lamps. This invention is considered innovative and environmentally friendly considering that a lot of pollution is due to human activities. The hard work of scientists to create a futuristic world with a natural concept in the last 100 years has finally paid off. Even though it looks trivial, the use of bioluminescent plants can actually solve various problems that exist in everyday life.



Huei-Mien Ke and Isheng Jason Tsai. 2022. “Understanding and using fungal bioluminescence – Recent progress and future perspectives”. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, Volume 33.

Jimmy C.K. Tong, Edmond S.L. Lau, Melody C.Y. Hui, Enoch Kwong, Morgan E. White, Arthur P.S. Lau. 2022. “Light pollution spatial impact assessment in Hong Kong: Measurement and numerical modelling on commercial lights at street level”. Science of The Total Environment, Volume 837.