If Michael Strano has his way, homes and streets of the future will be lit up with “green” energy — literally — from glowing plants and trees. While that may sound like a lofty goal, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor of chemical engineering and his team are well on their way to realizing the dream with a luminescent plant, which they hope will someday replace your bedside or table lamp!
To create the glowing plants, the scientists turned to fireflies for assistance. In the bioluminescent insects, an enzyme called luciferase reacts with a molecule called luciferin, causing it to release light. Another molecule, dubbed coenzyme A, helps the process along by getting rid of a byproduct of the reaction that inhibits luciferase activity.
Over the past 30 years, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has experienced a 50 percent loss in coral. Though part of the decline is being attributed to the warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change, about half of the damage is due to the proliferation of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). The deadly predators can devour as much as 53 square feet (five square meters) of live coral annually.
Native to the region, the starfish — which grow as big as 32 inches across, have over 21 arms, and are covered in poisonous spikes — are beneficial in small numbers. They help keep faster-growing coral reef in control, allowing slower growing colonies to form. However, the recent population explosion, combined with two consecutive years of coral bleaching, is destroying the reef at an unprecedented rate.