Would you replace your night light with a glowing piece of biotech?
That's the idea behind Glowee, a French envirotech company that is pitching an ethereal blue glow light based on "3.8 billion years of R&D by nature".
It's a neat bit of patented biotech, tapping into the bioluminescence produced and emitted by living organisms. Glowee's bacteria of choice, Aliivibrio fischeri, was originally taken from squid found in Hawaii, where its bioluminescence properties helps nocturnal squid hunt at night. These microbes are then placed in a gel by Glowee, and are then encouraged to use enzymes to break down chemical compounds, which releases energy resulting in the blue-green glow.
Glowee's light isn't going to be challenging the economics of the light bulb yet, and at this stage the target isn't set on Thomas Edison's invention, or fluorescent or LED lighting. The company has primarily partnered with events and museums to install ephemeral lighting to deliver unique experiences, as it hones its research and development.
The company isn't suggesting that its bioluminescence is going to replace lights in areas that demand concentrated brightness, such as while cooking in your kitchen. However, it may be a useful solution in night-time areas such as illuminating cities, building facades, street furniture, or in parks and gardens. The goal is to make bioluminescence self-evident as a solution.
The challenges facing Glowee are both the output intensity of light, and cost. The company says it has increased intensity by twenty times in two years of research, with more to be achieved, while costs need to reduce further to be directly competitive in the outdoor lighting market.
Intriguingly, the costs come from supplying the right nutrients to feed the micro-organisms, so the challenge for Glowee scientists is to shift the hungry critters onto an ever-improving yet cheaper diet.
Glowee have also managed to take the luminescence from lasting just a few seconds to three days, with a goal of extending that time to weeks by having the bacteria work during nights, taking a rest during the day. After three days, the gel must be replaced, which is perfect for events but difficult for longer timeframe installations such as in cities.
The company has been funded through a variety of methods, gathering 2.5 million Euros through early investors including 50 Partners, a major French power utility, as well as equity crowdfunding.