The light bulb could get a brand new power source: genetically engineered E. Coli bacteria.
The Biobulb project is the brainchild of AnaElise Beckman, Alexandra Cohn and Michael Zaiken, three juniors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The futuristic concept aims to create light from tiny microbes.
"The result ideally will be a closed ecosystem which outputs light," Zaiken says.
Univ. of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
The University of Wisconsin students Michael Zaiken (left), Alexandra Cohn (right) and AnaElise Beckman (center) are behind the Biobulb proposal.
As their page on the crowd sourcing site Rockethub explains, the Biobulb "will support a population of genetically engineered E. Coli. These bacteria will be transformed with a plasmid which contains the genes for bioluminescence," which will create the light. Think of the E. Coli working the same way as yeast does for baking bread or fermenting beer, except the end product is light.
You won't have to worry about the Biobulb's E. Coli making you sick. Zaiken explains "the E. Coli we are using is a lab strain and all the pathogenic parts have been removed. It couldn't hurt you."
The students have support from researchers at the university, but to get Biobulb off the ground, they'll need funding. Biobulb was chosen as one of two-dozen finalists to compete in the #CrowdGrant Challenge, sponsored by Popular Science magazine. Although the students are short of their $15,000 goal, Cohn says they're eager to start their research.
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"We're talking about what would be the best thing to start with to get the viable project moving," Cohn says. She says even if they don't get the full funding, the first step will be to "just work on just genetically engineering the e-coli to glow - just focusing on the bioluminescent aspect of the project." Cohn figures once they have glowing E. Coli to show, more financial supporters will step forward and they can start another crowd source fundraising campaign to complete their work.
As consumer and eco-friendly as Biobulb sounds, you may not be able to find it in stores any time soon. The students say their Biobulb would serve a different purpose than lighting homes across America.
"Our first step at the very end, if we did get a Biobulb out of this, would be to present it in some artistic fashion," says Beckman.
"People assume we want to use this as a consumer product and our whole goal is to make money off it, but none of us have any interest in that. We want to use this as an educational tool," Cohn says. The trio wants to send Biobulbs to schools around the world to serve as a conversation-starter about synthetic biology, the branch of science from which the entire project stems.Follow @borntorunnergrl
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