Image courtesy of MIT

After yesterday’s post about rechargeable light-emitting plants, I was reminded of this fun crystal ball piece I wrote for a 2004 issue of Rexel’s POWER OUTLET. Written as a firmly tongue-in-cheek future history, it predicts LED eliminating traditional lighting, botanescent lighting eliminating LED, and then yet another future technology coming along. I hope you have fun with it.

Grow Your Own . . . Lighting!

Lighting from plants. No, not factories – plants, the kind that grow. You know, in the dirt. This “history of the future” starts in 2014 – and takes us . . . where the headlines of the future will go!

‘Last Fluorescent Tube Rolls Off The Line’
From Lighting Today magazine
November 10, 2014

The last linear fluorescent lamp was produced today in Guangdong Province in the People’s Republic of China. Another era has come and gone in lighting, with the torch passed to the light-emitting diode (LED) – from the age of gaseous discharge (which followed the incandescent era).

“We’ll now have a four-week turnover,” said a spokesperson at the factory, “and will soon exclusively manufacture LED units, power supplies, modules, and fixtures.”

As LT readers well know, the LED has changed how we use lighting to interact with the world. Fixtures can now be any size, easily customized, easily dimmable and able to change colors, and consume very little energy while producing no heat and UV.

Big LED Lighting Corp., for example, allows specifiers to enter a VR Web site where they can build the fixture they want, test it in a simulation of the project, and order it – for fast-track shipping – from their nearest factory-distributor.

Ironically, even as LED manufacturers buried the last of their competition – with incandescents, HID units, and fluorescent lamps no longer in production – some are looking over their shoulder.

What’s next? Industry insiders are talking up botanescent lighting – illumination from plant life. Is that the next wave?

Partial Web cast Transcript
Botanescent Corp.
August 15, 2015

Hi, I’m Doug Parks, president of Botanescent Corporation. Thanks to you all for ‘attending’ our first Web cast. We’re excited about our technology, which is brand new but now commercially available and heading into mass production.

Okay, let me tell you how it started. It was a few years ago. I used to work as a janitor at Sandia National Laboratory, where the researchers were celebrating the fact that they’d finally gotten light output, cost, efficacy, and color quality right for LEDs.

This was the breakthrough, making LEDs capable of replacing every single incandescent and fluorescent application – no exceptions.

As for me, I was just a janitor – I had no Ph.D. But I always thought they were barking up the wrong tree. When I’d show up to clean up the labs at night, I’d say to the project director, ‘You’re thinking of lighting as hardware, but you should be thinking of it as software.’ I’d tell others as well.

They all humored me at the beginning, but sooner or later each one of them came to think I was nuts. They were really into those LEDs.

So I tinkered around with some of their genetics equipment after hours, spliced some genes from bioluminescent fish into various species of plants and somesuch, and walked right into the middle of the big celebration holding a potted plant that literally blinded the researchers (for about two hours).

They got pretty mad at me.

Incidentally, that potted plant was the prototype for our company’s first commercial introduction, Aletris farinose. For those of you online, take a look at the screen – it looks kind of like a white grassy moss that covers your ceiling.

So you can have a bright ceiling – you use our patented mulch to create furrows in the ceiling. Don’t worry, it hardens quickly! Then you inject the seedlings, and watch it grow.

Meanwhile, you replace the wiring with an irrigation system, and as long as water is being fed into the botanescent lighting system, you’ve got plenty of light. OK, this might not work in a desert!

We’re talking a revolution in lighting. Easy installation. No maintenance. Zero energy costs. Totally clean. It’s your lifetime lighting system – and you buy it as a seed.

‘A $17 Million Bright Idea!’
From Rexel’s POWER OUTLET magazine
Fall 2018 issue

Bill Smith of Smith Electrical Contracting discovered a green thumb – a bright, brilliant green – in managing a botanescent lighting retrofit of the 1,000,000-square-foot world headquarters of Pleasure Robots, Inc., near Orlando, Fla.

All existing LED fixtures were removed. More than 43,000,000 genetically modified botanescent seeds – mixed into six tons of mulch – were put in place. Combining the seed total and the square footage, this Rexel-supplied project is said to be the largest botanescent lighting installation to date in the U.S.

Smith earned awards from several construction associations, two “green” organizations – and was honored by the Horticulturalists of North America for the largest indoor cultivation of live plants.

Botanescent isn’t easy!
While the awards are appreciated, Smith and his crew put in some hard work from removal of the old equipment to installation of the new.

“There was a lot of logistics involved in getting the fixtures and wiring out,” Smith says. “We were fortunate to have Rexel to help us with the disposal, too.”

Another challenge was installing the new botanescent furrows to the lighting designer’s specification. The design called for the plants to grow in a pattern on the ceiling reminiscent of various crop circles.

At first, Smith was incredulous. “What the heck am I supposed to do with this?” he recalls asking. He claims to have studied the lighting designs eight times over a period of four days – and come away each time shaking his head.

“I’ve seen some outrageous lighting design requests, but this one takes the cake!” he told Bob Jones, his Rexel contact. After discovering that Pleasure Robots might bring in a horticulturalist to do the installation, Jones quickly brought himself up-to-speed on plant life as a light source.

“Bobby told us what we needed to do, and, as it turns out, it wasn’t that bad,” said Smith. “The main thing is to make sure you don’t spill the mulch, or else you have a lit carpet to go with your lit ceiling.”

After diving into the project, Jones and Smith shared their projected results with the client. If all goes as planned, Pleasure Robots will reduce its energy bill by the entire cost of lighting – some $17 million per year. That’s offset only by a $1 million anticipated increase in the company’s annual water bill.

But Joe Adams, VP of Facilities for Pleasure Robots, said the company initiated the project mostly for the indoor air quality benefits, which may lead to increased productivity. “All those plants produce a lot of oxygen, which builds up in the space,” said Adams. “It gets our workers high.

“They end up more alert, awake, and work much longer hours.”

‘NYJC To Plant Street Lights!’
Hoboken-Camden Daily Journal-Explorer
June 15, 2021

At a press conference today, Andy Giuliani, Mayor of the City of New York-Jersey, announced that all of the city’s LED street and traffic lights would be replaced by botanescent lighting systems over the next two years.

Botanescent Corp., now one of the city’s largest office building tenants, in March (at the LightFair show) unveiled a new outdoor botanescent model, which looks like a tree.

According to Jones, “The phased installation of botanescent trees will beautify our city streets and feed New York-Jersey what it needs most – cost savings, security, breathable air and a place where everybody’s dogs can use the bathroom without going on the sidewalk and irritating everybody else.”

‘Tendrilbulbs Debut – The Latest & Greatest!’
Press release from Botanescent Corp.
February 29, 2024

Botanescent will unveil the newest and perhaps most exciting botanescent lighting systems in a decade in March, at the 30th annual Lightfair International show in Las Vegas.

Sponsored by IALD, IESNA and the Horticulturalists of North America, the show will be held March 15-20. It is expected to draw more than 30,000 attendees.

Napenthes ampullaria is a new genetically modified organism that grows tendrils out of the mossy ceiling sheet and sprouts pitcherlike bulbs at the end of these tendrils. The pitcherlike bulbs glow different colors for accent and a decorative element, while the pitchers themselves attract and eat flies and wasps.

Facts: 2750 lumens per seedling. Comes in cartons of 12 seed packs.

Tulipa fosteriana (“Red Emperor”) is a decorative model that sprouts red tulips all year around. Other optional colors include yellow, blue, violet or titanium. Available in 2800/3500/5000K color temperatures.

Designed specially for residential and hospitality applications, Mammillaria crinita ssp wildii is a new cactus model for spaces where a Southwestern flavor is desired. Uses one-fifth the water of standard botanescent light sources. Fast-track delivery options available.

At the show, see Botanescent Corporation at booth #1282. Online, go to www.bot-lite.com; for VR design, go to www.bot-com.vr.

‘DOE Sets End To Powered Lighting’
Posted to BigEnergyNews.com
April 30, 2027

In a surprise move, the United States of North America Department of Energy issued a notice of new regulations governing efficacy requirements for indoor lighting systems. If these regs go final in their current form, they will phase out electricity use for any form of indoor lighting over the next decade.

Writing the regulations was not easy. The new efficacy requirements are difficult to express as a ratio of lumens (light output) divided by watts (electrical input), since you can’t divide by zero. The only lighting system that complies with the new mathematically-impossible-to-express efficacy requirements is botanescent lighting, since it requires no wattage.

Energy Secretary Chelsea Clinton: “Global warming has resulted in summer in Sweden 10 months out of the year. The USNA has no choice but to adopt electrical systems that use no electricity and therefore produce no byproducts into our atmosphere that contribute to global warming.”

President Jenna Bush applauded the new regulations and expressed hope they would help with the nation’s $45 trillion debt problem. Reports noted that Ms. Bush was careful to correct Ms. Clinton – saying pointedly: “There is no such a thing as global warming.”

LED manufacturers were shocked, with one weeping executive telling BigEnergyNews.com, “It took us 10-15 years to finally get LEDs right – and before we knew it, the plant freaks were at our necks!”

Upon issuance of the final regulations, the DOE says, it will get out of the business of regulating lighting. Future regulatory authority is likely to reside at the Department of the Interior.

‘Out Of The Picture: The LED Fixture’
From Lighting Today magazine
November 11, 2037

Thomas Edison was there in spirit yesterday – in Banglore, India – when the last LED fixture was assembled and shipped. This date will be remembered as the end of another era in lighting technology.

Our age marks the termination of artificial lighting produced with the use of high-polluting electric power. The LED era is now in the trash can, following its energy-hog predecessors – the gaseous discharge “fluorescent” system, and before that the incandescent.

Even as the last fixture was boxed (destined for northern China), conversion of the factory to a horticultural plant was underway. Within weeks, the Bangalore plant’s employees – now undergoing retraining – will return to the production line . . . this time, manufacturing botanescent plants, mulch, and distilled water.

Botanescent lighting systems have changed how we use lighting to interact with the world. Systems are any size, easily customized and consume zero energy while producing no heat and UV. Big Botanescent Lighting Corporation, for example, allows specifiers to enter a virtual reality web site where they can grow the fixture they want, test it in a simulation of the project, and order seedlings and mulch from their nearest greenhouse-distributor.

All is not necessarily “green” for the botanescent crowd, however. Even as they celebrate a final victory over the LED, some are looking over their shoulder at an up-and-coming technology . . . photinuscent.

If the word is obscure, it references light from white organic material genetically spliced with firefly genes. Proponents say once a few technical problems are overcome, they’ll slaughter the bot-light crowd. In theory, users would buy a lump of photinuscent dough for as little as seventy USNA dollars. From there, one would simply feed it sunshine until it grows to cover your entire application.

Photinuscent technologists claim their baby is three to five years away. Botanescent manufacturers are skeptical, however, saying it’s not dimmable.

Could photinuscent lighting be the next wave?