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March 9, 2016

Bioluminescent bacteria

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A French company is harnessing the power of bioluminescent bacteria to light up public areas.
Glowee, a Parisian start-up, plans to use bacteria found in squid to illuminate shop fronts, public spaces, and installations, with the hope of lighting up whole streets with these microbial lamps.
As the New Scientist reports, the lights consist of transparent cases filled with a gel containing the bioluminescent bacteria, alongside the sugars and oxygen they need to survive. The bacterium is both non-pathogenic and non-toxic.
There are obvious environmental benefits to using the bio-lights. Although the company has no intention of replacing all electric lighting with bioluminescence, it is a promising idea, with no need for electricity consumption and with considerably less carbon dioxide emissions than conventional means. On their website, the company says that “all the energy generated is used in the light production process. It is also less intense, allowing to limit the effect of light pollution.”
Presently, there are a few drawbacks to the lights. Their current design can only produce light for three days. Although the team hope to improve this lifespan, there is also the question of whether the cost and means of production could ever rival the efficiency of other light technology.
Although the cost and efficiency of Glowee remain unclear, there are some practical advantages. The lights are made of clear shells that can easily be trimmed and tailored to any shape and size. Additionally, the lights and casings appear transparent during the day.
Their inspiration came after a law was passed in July 2013 that forbids offices and retailers from keeping their shop fronts lit during the early hours of the morning in order to curb light pollution and energy consumption. Since Glowee emits a non-invasive soft light and won’t eat into France’s electricity network, it manages to bypass these laws.
After a crowdfunding campaign in May 2015, Glowee is now working on projects with event companies, urban furniture companies, and even Ben & Jerry’s (the ice cream guys).
But who knows, next time you’re taking a stroll through the “City of Light,” your path could be lit by some bioluminescent bacteria.

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