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Can Trees replace Streetlights?

November 17, 2010

Very interesting article by Popular Science.

Taiwanese researchers have come up with the elegant idea of replacing streetlights with trees, by implanting their leaves with gold nanoparticles. This causes the leaves to give off a red glow, lighting the road for passersby without the need for electric power. This ingenious triple threat of an idea could simultaneously reduce carbon emissions, cut electricity costs and reduce light pollution, without sacrificing the safety that streetlights bring.

Do these glowing trees belong on the streets of the future American city? Some questions that are floating in my mind:

1. How do these gold nanoparticles interfere with the structure of leaves? Will they shorten the lifespan of a tree? Will they lessen CO2 absorption?

2. Gold nanoparticles!? How much is this going to cost?

3. Will the gold nanoparticles wear down after a while due to weather and other outdoor factors? Over time, it seems like the shiny surfaces will get scratched, dulled, etc and loose effectiveness. In that case — are the replaceable.. ?

4. Approximately how much light is reflected [in wattage]?

What do you think? Click here to read the rest of the article.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 04:37

    lost my bookmarks and rss feeds. found your site again through linkedin phew! Thank god for the link! I read this actual article in my popular science magazine.

    I feel as if the inventory -cost- time to manage ratio would be through the roof.
    I feel positive there’s a more efficient way to light the streets.

    The time to manage, fabricate, distribute, and service the gold nanoparticles to trees would be too high. I think this is one of those research articles they read and extrapolated based on the “conclusion” section. Clearly massive strides have to be made to make bioluminescence a reality. I used to take genes and make them glow on petri-dishes for fun at UTMB, but using gold nano particles just sounds absurd. I don’t think the luminescence will power a substantial amount of photosynthesis. To put it more pictorially, imagine a flashlight wired to a solar panel that is wired back to itself. (Get the idea?)

    Only time will tell. nice post!

    A more realistic application of gold bio luminescence might be for botany research as a tool to measure rates of photosynthesis. By sampling sections of agricultural plots, agricultural industries could avoid waste and spoilage using this technology to reveal growth and decay rates of bi-product foods, thus planning the cold-chain more efficiently.
    still catching up on other posts via RSS reader………..

    • December 9, 2010 14:48

      Thanks for the feedback! I agree — definitely a long way until bioluminescence is a reality — but if it is …

      Should we really be messing with trees?! I feel like if we don’t know the long term effects of bioluminescence (say 20+ years of experimentation) then we definitely should not be implementing any of this technology.

      Really interesting subject though. I love Popular Science … I should really get a subscription!

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