Could nano gold particles be a viable source of green energy that could turn our trees into street lights? A Taiwanese scientist certainly believes so and, his findings have intrigued some of the world's leading researchers.
The team of scientists led by Yen-Hsun Su from the Research Center for Applied Sciences Academia Sinica in Taiwan, were researching a way to create a substitute for LED (Light emitting diode) that is commonly used for street lights. While LED is very efficient it uses phosphor powder to emit lights at different wavelengths - which is not only expensive, but also, highly toxic.
For his research, Dr. Yen-Hsun Su infused sea urchin shaped nanoparticles of gold inside the leaves of a Bacopa Caroliniana plant. The gold reacted with the chlorophyll, causing the leaves to emit a red glow, essentially creating a bio-LED. An added advantage? The luminescence also acts as an energy source that enables the leaves to conduct photosynthesis at night, which in turn absorbs Carbon Dioxide and emits Oxygen, making our air even healthier.
The research is still in its infancy and there are many issues that need to be ironed out, not the least of which is the high price of gold, which makes infusing even tiny amounts quite an expensive proposition.
Another issue is the trees - The Bacopa Caroliniana, commonly known as aquarium plant is perennial with a unique quality - Its leaves change color, turning from bronze to almost red, depending on the amount of light they are exposed to. The scientists will not only have to find other plants with similar characteristics, but also, ones that retain their foliage year round - And then, since trees are constantly shedding old leaves and growing new ones, there is the question of how often the gold nanoparticles have to be replaced.
With all these challenges it is very possible that these kind of streetlights may never happen, but the idea is certainly intriguing and could lead to others that may be more feasible.
Sources: physorg.com,popsci.com, gizmag.com