London: Scientists are developing ways of making trees glow so they can double up as streetlights.
A team of researchers is experimenting with genes to allow bioluminescence, which causes fireflies to glow, to be implanted into a variety of different organisms.
As well as replacing traditional streetlights, bioluminescent plants will be useful for people who are not hooked up to the power grid.
Cambridge University scientists used genes from fireflies and a special form of glowing sea bacteria to create 'BioBricks' - genetic building blocks that can be inserted into a genome, the Daily Mail reports.
After inserting the modified genes into a sample of e-coli bacteria, they were able to produce a range of colours - and created a living light that was bright enough to read by.
The scientists got the glowing effect by creating a substance known as oxyluciferin which is naturally in a high-energy state at first.
However, it quickly settles into a more stable, lower-energy state, and when it does so it emits a single photon of light.
Study author Geneticist Theo Sanderson told the New Scientist: "We didn't end up making bioluminescent trees, which was the inspiration for the project."
"But we decided to make a set of parts that will allow future researchers to use bioluminescence more effectively."
The research was presented at the annual International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (iGEM), held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
First Published: Sunday, November 28, 2010, 15:12