Imagine a city lit by glowing trees

Earlier this month we highlighted the importance of our planet’s microbiome and the need to protect it from further damage. Recent events have fuelled widespread recognition of the issue, leading to interesting and innovative initiatives in the fight against climate change. In one an interesting development, a lab in Denmark is exploring the possibility of using bioluminescent microorganisms as potential natural streetlights.

Currently, lighting accounts for nearly 6% of global CO2 emissions(1). Researchers have stated that if the genes of microalgae can be alerted and added to trees, it could pose an alternative to typical street lighting.

Kristian Ejlsted, CEO of Allumen – a new startup based near Copenhagen that educates people with sustainable products containing millions of microscopic glowing algae – highlights the advantage of using such trees as a source of light. “The real advantage of changing to a biological system is that the algae, for example, or the plant, only need CO2 and sunlight and some water.”(2)

Already a number of cities from around the world have switched from older technology to adopting LED lighting(3), cutting energy bills and lowering emissions. However, this technology is still a source of emissions and although these gene-edited glowing trees are still far from reality, it is thought that, if grown, they would be fully efficient, requiring little cost and zero electricity.

Perhaps this will not be only innovative use for bioluminescent microorganisms. We’ve all heard of the term ‘glowing skin’, but maybe there will even be such a thing as bioluminescent skincare in the future…

bioluminescent microorganisms


[1] The Climate Group – LED scale up

[2] Fast Company – Imagine a city lit by glowing trees instead of streetlights

[3] Smart Cities Dive – More and more cities are switching to LED street lighting

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