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How-To: Fluorescent Flowers, The Easy Way

Craft & Design Science

The hard way, of course, is to splice in the gene that codes for green fluorescent protein, as in the case of, say that GFP bunny that made the rounds a few years back. That’s a bit of a project, really.

This quickie version, from everybody’s favorite anonymous, Jigsaw-voiced YouTube chemhacker NurdRage, amounts to extracting the fluorescent dye from highlighters into water and, you know, sticking the cut stems down in there for awhile. To use scientific terms.

Cool enough. And though I’m a big NurdRage fan, I have to protest the use of “glow in the dark” to describe what’s happening here. In truth, these flowers are fluorescent, because they appear to glow in the dark under UV light. But what’s really happening is near-instantaneous re-radiation, of absorbed UV photons, in the visible band. True GITD materials—like those stick-on stars on your bedroom ceiling—work by the entirely different process of phosphorescence. And although it may never be possible to make a living flower truly phosphorescent, there was recently a very interesting advance in the field of phosphorescent materials. [via Neatorama]


2 thoughts on “How-To: Fluorescent Flowers, The Easy Way

  1. Alan says:

    Luciferase transgenes are a routine tool in plant molecular biology, and those meet the “glow in the dark” criterion. There was also this cute trick from an Italian researcher a few years back, but I gather all he did was spray the tree with a culture of Vibrio fischeri, so it’s not really the plant that’s glowing. Highlighter ink is a whole lot easier, though.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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