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Glowing Trees

The blockbuster movie Avatar depicted many inspirational and creative ideas of new forms of life.

Imagine if one such idea, the glowing trees providing luminescence in the dark, could become a reality.

Modern display and lighting devices use LED for illumination,which includes phosphor powder to simulate light of different wavelengths.

These phosphor powders are highly toxic and are expensive.

Dr Yen-Hsun Su of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, has led a team that have discovered a way to develop a less toxic substance to replace the phosphor powder which poses a serious threat to human health. This project resulted in bio-LEDs, developed by synthesizing gold nanoparticles shaped like sea urchins, being introduced into plant leaves to form plants which glow.

Dr Yen’s team implanted gold nanoparticles into Bacopa caroliniana plants. They found that when exposed to high wavelength ultraviolet light, the gold nanoparticles produce a blue-violet fluorescence that triggers a red emission by the chlorophyll in the plant.  Basically the chlorophyll pigment present in leaves shows bio-luminescence up to wavelengths of 400nm. When the induced gold nanoparticles are excited at shorter wavelengths they emit light at a of wavelength 500nm and so a red color emission was produced.

‘The way the researchers introduce these gold nano-sea urchins in live plants utilising the 400 nm photoluminescence of gold to obtain the bioluminescence of chlorophyll is impressive,’ said Krishanu Ray, an expert in nanotechnology and fluorescence at the University of Maryland.

In the future these bio-LED’s could be utilised for roadside lighting, saving energy and absorbing more carbon dioxide, as these bio-LEDs will cause chloroplast to conduct more photosynthesis.

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