Studio Roosegaarde

Glow-in-the-dark trees streetlights

BioGlow, Glow in the dark trees, Daan RoosegaardeDutch designer Daan Roosegaarde about his plans to genetically engineer glow-in-the-dark trees to replace streetlights.

Roosegaarde had just got hold of his first sample of a bioluminescent house plant, which he was unable to get delivered to his Rotterdam studio because of strict EU regulations around the use of genetically modified plants.

In this movie filmed at SXSW in Austin, Roosegaarde explains how:

“In the last year I really became fond of biomimicry. “What can we learn from nature and apply to the built environment, to roads, to public spaces, to our urban landscape?”

Biomimicry is the method of imitating models and systems found in nature to solve complex design issues. One of the biological phenomena that fascinated Roosegaarde was how animals like jellyfish and fireflies generate their own light.

“When a jellyfish is deep, deep underwater it creates its own light,” he says. “It does not have a battery or a solar panel or an energy bill. It does it completely autonomously. What can we learn from that?”

Roosegaarde’s interest in biomimicry led him to collaborate with the State University of New York and Alexander Krichevsky, whose technology firm Bioglow unveiled genetically modified glow-in-the-dark plants.

Krichevsky creates the glowing plants by splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria to the chloroplast genome of a common houseplant, so the stem and leaves emit a faint light similar to that produced by fireflies and jellyfish.

Roosegaarde is now working on a proposal to use a collection of these plants for a large-scale installation designed to look like a light-emitting tree.


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Studio Roosegaarde Founder: Daan Roosegaarde Rotterdam NETHERLANDS