For 17 minutes, exhausted vaccination volunteers and those waiting after the shot can sit bathed in soothing music and a fleeting aquamarine glow. The light is emitted by a long cylindrical cartridge embedded in a “tree”; nearly half fall into a deep sleep, French newspaper The Republican Echo reported; most feel recharged, as the bioluminescent bacteria provide a kind of light therapy.
This is the Glowzen room, and the aurora is courtesy of French startup Glowee, which harnesses bioluminescent bacteria to light up public spaces. Gloewee had already piloted a similar waiting room at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.
But the ambition is to take the glow beyond specialist rooms and into the streets themselves, and Glowee has found a willing partner for this eco-lighting experiment in Rambouillet, a town of 27,000 people to around 30 miles southwest of Paris.
Rambouillet wants to become his clean City of Light, announces a partnership with Glowee in 2019 which will eventually lead to the lighting of the tree-lined André Thomé and Jacqueline Thomé-Patenôtre square in the town.
“Our goal is to change the way cities use light”, Sandra Rey, founder of Glowee told the BBC.
“We want to create an atmosphere that is more respectful of citizens, the environment and biodiversity – and impose this new philosophy of light as a real alternative.
The power of bioluminescent bacteria: Glowee’s light pylons are home to a species of bioluminescent ocean bacteria called Aliivibrio fischeri. The bacteria are collected on the French coast and live in a medium of salt water and nutrients inside the Glowee tubes.
When exposed to oxygen, Aliivibrio fischeri metabolize nutrients, producing the glow. To “turn them off”, you just have to turn off the airflow. Because it’s part of their normal activity, the lights require very little power, the BBC reported; just what is needed to provide their food.
This low energy requirement means bioluminescent bacteria could provide an efficient and long-lasting form of light, Rey says. Although LED bulbs produce cheaper light, they still require electricity, which is (in most countries) primarily generated by burning fossil fuels.
Glowee’s lights require less electricity to operate than an LED light, the company says, and can be produced using less water and with a lower carbon footprint than light bulbs. The liquid medium itself is also biodegradable.
While all of this is all well and good, where bioluminescent bacteria fail is most obvious — and most important, from a public safety standpoint — the amount of light they produce.
A little dull: Vanderbilt professor Carl Johnson laid out the challenges of Glowee’s vision.
“First you have to feed the bacteria and dilute them as they grow,” Johnson told the BBC.
” It is not so easy. Also, the phenomenon will be very temperature dependent and I doubt it works in winter. Third, bioluminescence is very weak compared to electric lighting. But maybe they improved the intensity of the luminescence.
Glowee’s bioluminescent bacteria can currently produce 15 lumens per square meter, the BBC reported – well below the 25 lumens/square meter mark that is generally considered the threshold for park and garden lighting. Common LED bulbs easily produce over 100 lumens, by comparison.
To bridge this gap, Glowee is currently working to optimize bacteria, including genetically modifying them to be more efficient at producing light and less sensitive to temperature, Interesting engineering reported.
“The ideal temperature for these microorganisms is between 23 and 25°C. We are still working on this,” said Rey. The Echo.
Glowee is currently working to optimize the bacteria, including genetically modifying them to be more efficient at producing light and less sensitive to temperature.
Although currently only available in tube lights, Glowee plans to create other bioluminescent installations, such as furniture. Bioluminescent bacteria are unlikely to replace electric lighting, Rey conceded to The Echobut could complement it, especially in pedestrian areas.
“We’re taking it bit by bit,” Rey told the BBC. “But we have already made tremendous progress and our philosophy of light is a response to the crisis facing humanity.”
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