Luminescence & Plants: when they shine of their own light [part 1]

In a spring night imagine your home’s courtyard directly illuminated by the plants that inhabit it, with no need of lamps or electric garden lights. In a not too distant future it might be possible, thanks to the natural luminescence of some plants: in recent years many research groups both, inside and outside the universities around the world, are moving in order to strengthen it by prospecting scenarios worthy of the movie Avatar.

Among the last in order of time there the researches of the project Glowing Plant, who in June 2013 have been able to collect something as 500.000 Dollars in funding through the platform of crowd funding Kickstarter for a study of genetic manipulation on plants that one day could be used for street lighting.

Luminescence, this unknown

Luminescence, or more properly bioluminescence, is called the light originated by a chemical reaction and emitted in an indipendent manner by a series of living organisms, generally of lower species. According to what I have read, the reaction is mediated by an enzyme called luciferasi on a pigment molecule called luciferina which in contact with oxygene enters into an excited state and then decays to form oxyluciferina, carbon bioxide and energy in the form of light, with a negligible amount of heat.

pianta luminescenteLiving & luminescent beings

In nature, while most of the bioluminescence life forms inhabit the deep seas, there are also examples in the earth, in which the emission of light is often used as a signal for the primary biological functions as the acquisition of food, the attraction of a mate or pollinating insects for reproduction., or even as defense from predator.

Just as fireflies are the bioluminescent creatures, which are the most familiar to us, there is a vast multitude of simple organisms that glow of their own light, which includes:

 

  • bacteria: (fotobacteria),
  • mosses (such as Schistostega osmundacea that emits its ultraviolet light from the old clefts);
  • some fungi (from iridescent spores of the Panellus Stipticus to those of the Pleurotus olearius, which grows over the old stumps of olive trees and attracts nightlife insects for pollination);
  • algae and single-celled organisms (such as Noctiluca scintillans or the Ceratium tripos),
  • but also jellyfish and molluscs, fishes, worms and insects, whose emission is generally blue or green, yellow or red in some cases.

In New Guinea it seems to exist a such bright fungus to be tied on the back of the guides of the place, as signal for the rear in order not to get lost in the night.

Keep reading (scientific and bibliography) >

Leave a Comment