Glowee: lighting the way towards more sustainable illumination.

By Josh Henry.

The concept of bioluminescent lighting has forever been toyed with. From children catching fireflies in jars to backyard algae kits, there has been the idea that light can be achieved through living organisms.

With recent advances in genetic engineering, could biological light solutions be commercialised and mass manufactured?

A Parisian start-up company, Glowee is currently developing street lighting which uses the DNA of bacteria found living on squids to produce light naturally. The bacteria are inserted into nontoxic algae which propagate in a clear shell with enough nutrients to make light. In other words the light could be considered a plant which requires an appropriate ecosystem to exist.

“Light will be a raw material that can take any shape.” Glowee founder Sandra Rey

Glowee has marketed this towards shop owners to account for current French legislation requiring shopfronts not to “…light their shop windows between 1am and 7am to limit light pollution and energy consumption”. Frances Marcellin, New Scientist. They intend to extend this to urban landscaping from 2018. Backed by ERDF, who supplies 95% of France with electricity, Glowee may find its place alongside artificial lighting. Not replacing the current system, but decreasing the city’s overall energy usage.


Currently their product can only last for 40 hours. However they have come a long way from initial testing where it lasted a few minutes.  Having reached their goal on ulele of $43 667 last month, it will be interesting to see how far Glowee can take this idea.

Glowee may not rival current artificial street lighting, but it does however present a sustainable option whilst reducing light pollution.

Even as a concept, Glowee highlights the significance of biomimicry, using nature as inspiration, when looking for design solutions. As more is learnt about genetic engineering, its role in product design could become beneficial both economically and environmentally.


Urban landscape illustrating the potential use of Glowee luminescence technology. Image courtesy of Glowee.

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