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Self-lighting Christmas trees could be the future

18 December 2018

Say goodbye to tangled up Christmas lights, as self-lighting Christmas trees could be the future thanks to scientists using virtual reality.

By using virtual reality (VR) scientists from the University of Warwick have managed to come up with the theory of making self-lighting trees.

It can be done using synthetic biology, an exciting field which aims to make biology easier to engineer with many applications from industrial chemical processes, to the environment and to healthcare. The team of engineers and biologists at WISB have shown how this process can be demonstrated through VR.

But would they glow all the time? No! Plants know when it’s day and night as they, like humans, have a natural ‘body clock’, so we could harness their natural clock so that the light production is responsive to day and night.

This strategy can also be applied to other plants, for example trees on the streets, meaning there would be no need for street lights.

Dr Alexander Darlington of the Department of Engineering comments: “Synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionise our lives and the pace of technological improvement is astonishing. Whether we do one day produce sustainable self-lighting Christmas trees remains to be seen but working on a project like this allows us to critically think about the impact of our work on society. The VR allows us to think about problems differently; working with designers and artists as we developed the experience caused me to reflect on my own work and its place in wider society.”

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