Are They Bacteria Bulbs of The Future? Bioluminescence to Illuminate Streets and Squares

Until the introduction of the urban lighting, the night was the ground of the outcasts and criminals. The first gas and then electric light conquered the night for everyday life. But with light came also the light pollution and energy expenditure.

Today the world 19% of energy production dedicated to lighting. A lot that we can not reduce without increasing security problems. For this reason, many scientists believe that it is time to rethink how to illuminate our streets and squares. Glowee, for example, is a small Parisian startup committed to convert to the luminescent bacteria in the light of the future.

“City of light” at the cradle of the bioluminescence

The bioluminescence is one natural chemical reaction that enables some organisms produce light natural. More than 90% of marine organisms are bioluminescent so it is a well-known phenomenon. The problem is the technical complexity to reproduce that phenomenon so that we can use in everyday life.

The Glowee mechanism is easy to explain but has a very complex implementation: used, on the one hand, the bacterium Aliivibrio fischeri, giving animals as the Hawaiian bobtail squid the ability to shine. And, on the other hand, a nutrient-rich gel that tries to reproduce the ecosystem of bacteria. This gel, precisely, is the key to the system. Adjusting the quality, density, and nutrient enrichment of the gel, is achieved increase the life of bacteria and, even, reproduction. But it is not easy.

Today, the cost of producing and maintaining bioluminescent bacteria is too high to compete on the market. But it won’t be for a long time.

Although the bioluminescent lights are not new, we are one of the first commercial developments of this technology. With the great challenge of improving autonomy and after illuminating several streets of Paris during last December, Glowee, from the hand of EDF, French electric great, has launched a three-day bioluminescent lights and announced new models of light bulbs a month in 2017. At first glance, seems a very interesting technology for lighting outdoor, traffic signs or displays (in France, by law, showcases not may be lighted during the night to avoid light pollution) as well as provide illumination in locations without power as parks or forests.

“Our goal is to change the way we produce and use light,” says Sandra Rey, founder of Glowee. They have it easy, taking into account energy efficiency that is getting so much with how incandescent led technologies. Some specialists, as the oceanographer Edith Widder, think that for now, the cost of producing and maintaining bioluminescent bacteria in environmental conditions appropriate for their development is too high. Glowee is aware of the challenges, but as King says, “now that we have the tools to copy the best of nature, we can build to measure processes and more sustainable products”.