Thomas Edison, who tinkered with hundreds of items for the filament of the first electric light bulb, never considered bacteria as a source of light, as in the Biobulb.
We may already be familiar with the humble firefly, angler fish, and even a host of other species that glow in the dark. The phenomenon is known as bioluminescence, and many species use specialized structures in their bodies to feed and house colonies of bioluminescent bacteria to provide light. Even in the pitch black of the ocean deep, the anglerfish uses this light to attract prey. The firefly uses this light on summer nights to attract a mate. Soon, with the help of Biobulb, humans might use this light to illuminate their homes.
Researchers at University of Wisconsin at Madison are working on a self-contained ecosystem that could provide light for years without the use of electricity or fire. This ecosystem-in-a-jar uses light from the sun for energy, which is absorbed during the day. Specialized E. Coli bacteria have been engineered to incorporate a plasmid encoding for bioluminescence, so they keep shining at night. Right now, the Biobulb simply glows green, but researchers are searching for ways to maximize color, change color, and even make it glow on demand.
The firefly may have used bioluminescence first to attract mates on the hot summer’s eve, but perhaps humans can use this light to free themselves of fossil fuels? Probably not, but it’s a pretty neat idea, using the power of the sun and a few specially-trained and engineered microorganisms to provide light at night. Biobulb is currently seeking development money on RocketHub.