Glow-in-the-Dark Trees Could Someday Replace City Street Lights

Researchers in Denmark have a whimsical idea for lighting city streets and sidewalks: glow-in-the-dark trees. Imagine, no more streetlights with broken bulbs and no more dimly-lit alleys. Instead, your evening stroll could be illuminated by luminous trees giving off a calming hue. Danish startup Allumen wants to make that sci-fi fantasy a reality, and their goal is is isolate the genes that cause some creatures to glow and then use those genes to genetically engineer trees to do the same thing. If you’re wondering why they would take on such an ambitious task, think about how expensive streetlights are. They make up the largest chunk of most cities’ energy bills. Lighting also contributes a lot of emissions. While environmentally-friendly lighting options have caused carbon emissions to plummet, the advantage of changing to a biological system is that they only need CO2, sunlight and some water. Tweaking the genetic makeup of plants is, however, a complex process involving a lot of technical challenges, and that, of course, can get expensive. While it’s likely that glow-in-the-dark trees will become a reality at some point in time, it may be years down the road.