The hunt for the most eco-friendly way to light your home didn't end with the creation of compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lights. Dutch electronics giant Philips has developed a lighting system that follows the example of the humble firefly, producing a green glow that uses no electricity at all. The fuel source? In part, human waste. Here, a guide to this new "bio-light" technology:
How does this light work?
Philips harnessed the same source of illumination that makes fireflies and certain algae glow at night. The company's Microbial Home system creates light by putting bioluminescent bacteria inside hand-blown glass bulbs. The living bacteria are fed nutrients through thin silicon tubes, and they use the enzyme luciferase to generate light. As long as the bacteria are kept fat and happy, they generate a soft green glow, without the help of electricity or solar energy.
Where do the nutrients come from?
There's no way to sugarcoat it — the bio-light harnesses the energy in poo. In fact, the bacteria in the system's glass bulbs feed on several kinds of waste material generated in the typical home. They get methane generated by the Microbial Home bio-digester unit, which processes everything from composted bathroom solids to vegetable matter discarded in the kitchen. "Just keep on, um, producing waste," says Evan Ackerman at Dvice, "and you'll have all the alien mood-lighting you could ever want."
And this is enough to light up the house?
Not quite. The technology is still a work in progress, and its glow is far less bright than today's standard artificial light. Still, says Randolph Jonsson at Gizmag, "it's definitely a step in the right direction, especially because it gets people thinking about untapped household energy sources."