April 2, 2017

Microbe-powered light

Increased interest in the capability of bioluminescent organisms, which emit light by way of chemical reaction, has inspired some scientists to propose methods for harnessing this phenomenon in designed products. A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery is developing a self-contained light source that is powered by light-emitting bacteria.

The Biobulb contains E. coli bacteria that have been genetically modified to emit light. The bulb also includes additional organisms required to manage and sustain its light-producing function, such as algae to harvest energy from sunlight, and predatory protists (eukaryotic organisms) to limit bacteria growth and recycle nutrients. Remarkably, this self-enclosed ecosystem is designed to run continuously on sunlight and managed waste; however, in reality, the bulb life is uncertain, due to the delicate balance of the microorganisms and the likely need for occasional recharging. Nevertheless, the Biobulb represents a promising step toward creating a net-zero light source without using conventional renewable energy.

Contact: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Madison, WI, USA.

For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future

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