Sunday, December 12, 2010
street life lights
One of the cool things about this time of the year is the sparkling lights on Christmas trees. It's always a shame when the holidays end and we're left with long dark nights and streets lit by ugly phosphorous street lights that make you eager to get back inside. Street lights are, of course, important for lighting our way home and for keeping the streets safe but as well as shining in a somewhat poisonous spectrum, they're also very costly to operate.
A group of scientists in Taiwan recently discovered that placing gold nanoparticles inside the leaves of trees causes them to give off a luminous reddish glow after dark. They were looking for a way to create high efficiency lighting at low cost without using toxic chemicals. Essentially, the gold treated leaves act like little solar panels storing up UV light throughout the day and glow softly through the night.
There was no discussion in the article I read about what happens in high latitude cities where the leaves actually drop in the autumn but it would give us all another good reason to look forward to spring. Considering the current price of gold it's also certainly true that there'd be lots of people eager to rake once the leaves began to fall. A world lit by bioluminescence would be pretty neat but it all sounds pretty complicated and I'm a bit nervous about nano-anything.
What I know would be nice is being able to see the moon and stars again.