Philips is working on ways to take sustainable lighting to a level far beyond LED lamps. It is based on the concept of bioluminescence, which refers to light produced by living organisms. The light produced by fireflies is an example of bioluminescence. Amazingly, Philips’ concept of “Microbial Homes” is aimed at harnessing light produced by colonies of bacteria!
The concept is based on growing a colony of bioluminescent bacteria in hand-blown glass “bulbs”. The bacteria are fed by a stream of methane gas that is piped into these bulbs using silicon tubes. The methane gas itself is produced by a bio-digester that uses household bio-waste as input.
The bacteria will multiply and keep producing light as long as they are nourished. There is thus no recurring cost for producing the light. Another advantage is that bioluminescence is heat-free, unlike conventional lighting, where the conversion of electrical energy to light energy is accompanied by production of heat.
The challenge, though, is that a large colony of bacteria is required to produce light that is bright enough for practical utility. Also, the “bulbs” need to be connected to the bio-digester. The latter hurdle can perhaps be surmounted by using a central bio-digester and a network of silicon tubes as the equivalent of electrical wires.