Daylight Investigations



Elizabeth Njeri


Wycliffe Waburiri


Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology




Project Description

BIOLUMINESCENCE Bioluminescence occurs through a chemical reaction that produces light energy within an organism’s body. This chemical reaction requires two unique compounds: luciferin and either luciferase or photo protein. Luciferin is the molecule that actually produces light when it comes into contact with oxygen. Bioluminescence is a ‘cold light’, meaning less than 20% of the light generated is heat. Bioluminescent Plants All organisms on earth are related and their DNA is made up of the same four genetic building blocks called nucleotides. Different patterns of these nucleotides are responsible for the diversity of life. Genetic engineering of plants to have bioluminescent properties has been proven to be possible on any type of plant. Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family has been used in crossing of bioluminescent plants with non-bioluminescent ones. Early efforts of the project yielded plants that glowed for 45 minutes. This has since improved to 3.5 hours. By optimizing the concentration and release rates of the components, light emitted by the plants can be further boosted to almost 7 hours. Research into this is still on-going. DNA Implantation By modifying genome sequences scientists have been able to create desired DNA’s of particular plant species. With the help of Agro-bacterium, nature’s genetic engineer, the created DNA is introduced to the plant. Small amounts of the DNA are implanted into the leaves of the plant which then travel to the female gametes. When fully grown, resultant seeds express the implanted DNA making them bioluminescent. Some plants show the bioluminescent quality at seed stage while others start expressing this quality only after germination through their leaves. Background Kwale County at the coast of Kenya experiences a tropical climate. The urban population in the county accounts for 17.6% of the total population therefore leaving more than three quarters of the population in the rural side. The county’s full potential can easily be realized by availing electricity which in turn supports economic and agricultural growth. With the availability of ample land to utilize, planting of bioluminescent trees and eventually forests is a viable option in this locality. The introduction of these trees will pave the way for the county to appreciate eco-friendly light alternatives as well as inspire innovations within the young minds. Day lighting Photosynthesis is vital for any plant, bioluminescent ones not being the exception. All organisms need energy to grow and reproduce. Many organisms use cellular respiration to produce ATP, which is used for cellular energy. The respiration reaction uses carbohydrates like glucose as a substrate. Whereas humans eat food to provide the fuel for respiration, plants make their own through photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, plants would not have carbohydrates for respiration. The carbohydrate produced in photosynthesis is also used to build plant cell structures, like the cellulose cell wall. Daylight from the sun enables the conversion of carbon (IV) oxide and water to sugar and oxygen. Therefore, the lack of daylight would lead to an incomplete process of photosynthesis. Bioluminescence as an alternative to conventional lighting In Kenya 70% of our electricity is sourced from renewable energy, over 50% is directly from hydropower. The adoption of bioluminescent trees as an eco-friendly source of light contributes to reducing the carbon footprint of our nation. Directly by offering an alternative that consumes the harmful carbon (IV) oxide from the atmosphere and instead gives out oxygen while also giving out ample light. Indirectly by promoting need for afforestation of bioluminescent plants in order to utilize their light. Afforestation ensures that water catchment areas are increased therefore increasing amount of water in lakes and dams which in turn is used in the generation of electricity. Applications School-going children and entrepreneurs in Kwale will be the biggest beneficiaries of this innovation as their activities will not be suddenly halted by the setting of the sun. The bioluminescent light also inadvertently solves issues of insecurity and crime within the region. Residents can peacefully hold social gatherings in the night for celebrations, rituals and other occasions. During the hot season, the trees will provide adequate shade for children playing in school fields, pedestrians and everyone at large. Mitigations to possible challenges Trees planted on the roadside will exclusively be maintained by the local government. Seedlings will be produced in a nursery before being transplanted to the site. This reduces chances of the plant being damaged or stolen before it can serve the community. The trees in schools and other private spaces will be exclusively owned by these institutions. The responsibility of caring for these trees and potted plants may be transferred to the students as they shall indirectly be learning how to care for the planet. References Trafton, A. (2017). Engineers create plants that glow. MIT News Office. Retrieved from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 2018 Economic Survey 2018, Government Printer, Nairobi