Gold is the Metal

[Image: Gold nanoparticles, courtesy of Georgia Tech].

It was reported earlier this month that "gold nanoparticles can induce luminescence in leaves." That's right: glowing trees. The scientists who discovered it call it bio-LED.

According to ElectroIQ, "by implanting the gold nanoparticles into Bacopa caroliniana plants, Dr. Yen-Hsun Su [of the Research Center for Applied Science in Taiwan] was able to induce the chlorophyll in the leaves to produce a red emission. Under high wavelength of ultraviolet, the gold nanoparticles can produce a blue-violet fluorescence to trigger a red emission of the surrounding chlorophyll."

This has the exquisitely surreal effect of being able "to make roadside trees luminescent at night"—with the important caveat "that the technologies and bioluminescence efficiency need to be improved for the trees to replace street lights in the future." In other words, we're not quite there—but a deciduous splendor might illuminate streets near you, soon.

[Image: Gold nanoparticles, courtesy of Georgia Tech].

Last spring, I should point out, I had the pleasure of teaching a research seminar at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, looking at blackouts: that is, landscapes—both urban and otherwise—encountered in a state of unexpected darkness.

We looked at a huge variety of technologies for non-electrical illumination—sources of light for situations in which electricity has failed—from tools as basic as pocket lighters to openly whimsical investigations into bioluminescent fish, plants, algae, and bacteria, scaled up to intimations of an entire bioluminescent metropolis.

But the idea that trees impregnated with gold might someday line city streets, turning night into day, is like a vision of Gustav Klimt unexpectedly crossed with Con Edison: a botanical alchemy through which base wood becomes light at the speed of photosynthesis.

(Via Popular Science; earlier: Three Trees).

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Riotfish said...

Is that title a reference to the Coil album of the same name? I'm guessing it probably came from an older source, as Balance liked to sample occult works for snatches of lyrics.

Was intrigued by this idea the first time I read of it! PS: Really love this blog.

November 15, 2010 3:41 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Hey, Riotfish, glad you like the blog. The title is a Coil reference; I'm a long-time fan. Have you seen this old post? I saw them play once, at the Barbican, back in 2002.

November 15, 2010 3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone has to say this: pics or it didn't happen.

November 15, 2010 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Avatar!!

November 15, 2010 8:02 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Kinda gives the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" a whole new meaning.

November 15, 2010 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Riotfish said...

No, I've only been following the blog closely on RSS for the last year or so. Very cool post on the ANS synth - wasn't aware of how it worked! And you're lucky for having seen them live. Inspiring blog; finding out you're a Coil fan is enriching.

Cheers, Geoff!

November 15, 2010 2:09 PM  
Anonymous namhenderson said...

Gustav Fffing Klimt. Brilliant, can you imagine a street-scape the color of the photos in this post? More as an aesthetic than an infrastructure even. Pretty...

November 15, 2010 7:02 PM  
Blogger Windgate said...

Iván García Subero: Is it possible to see any photo with this weird whing working on a real tree? :D

It could be good to watch it in real, maybe with a heatmap or something.... :P

November 22, 2010 7:39 PM  

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