Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bioluminescent Light Bulbs?

There is a news blurb going around about using flasks of bioluminscent bacteria to light your house.  I mentioned this type of thing in the Foxfire post, but Philips has been working on this for some time.  The lighting system consists of a wall of hand-blown glass flasks, coupled to methane lines that are sourced locally (ie, from the users trash).  The bacteria have been engineered to glow when methane is present, so users can control the lighting.  Although this is impractical for general use at the moment, it is probably the beginning of the next revolution in lighting. Some of the articles talk about the most likely first application, which would be for safety lighting near buildings or on roadways.  I think it would be cool to have trees or shrubs engineered to glow as well... it would be awesome to have glowing bushes near our front walkway!  If you want to see how the bioluminscent bacteria fit into the Microbial Home, see the link at Philips' web site ( link), it's pretty trippy stuff.  If you want to try your hand at growing bioluminescent algae at home (or for a cool science fair project!), here is a good starting place (link).  If you want to see what a team from Cambridge University did for their iGEM project last year (hint: it's on making bioluminscent products) check out this link.

  Philips is not the only company looking at commercializing bioluminescence for non-medical applications.  A company called BioLume (link), based in Research Triangle Park, NC is trying to put bioluminescent proteins in food.  Yeah, that's right.  Glowing food.  They use examples like candy and alcohol as likely products, as well as makeup.  Sounds like a Rave Gone Wild! The company has IP around many different bioluminescent proteins (mostly luciferases) found in marine life.  I imagine that they formulate it in a way that the enzyme becomes active when there is a change in the environment.  They mention a calcium-induced reaction of a enzyme-substrate fusion, as well as fusions with fluorescent proteins.  I'm sure that the proprietary chemistry and photophysics involved in these products is really cool!  I do hope the metabolized product is non bioluminscent... there is nothing more scary that glowing pee!