Issue 215 - Light green

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Basic

Vocabulary: Green things we eat

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The news story

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Light green

Engineers have made plants that can shine in the dark. They hope that in the future we can use plants instead of electric light.

A team of engineers at MIT put a special enzyme inside the leaves of the plants, and then they started to shine in the dark.

“The idea is to make a plant that will work like a desk lamp — a lamp that you don't have to plug in,” said the head of the MIT team.

First, the engineers made nanoparticles with luciferase inside them. Luciferase is a natural enzyme. For example, fireflies shine in the dark because they have luciferase in their bodies. Then, the engineers put the nanoparticles inside the leaves of spinach and watercress to make them shine.

In the first experiments, the engineers made plants that could shine for 3.5 hours. But they hope that they can make the technique better. In the future they want to find an easy way to put the nanoparticles on the leaves of big plants; for example, on trees.

Maybe, in the future, light in our houses will come from plants, not from lamps. And the light in our streets will come from trees, not street lights.

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Intermediate

Grammar: Modal verbs will, could, would, should

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The news story

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Light green

Engineers have created plants that can shine in the dark. In the future, they hope to replace some kinds of electrical lighting with plants.

A team of specialists at MIT has developed a plant that can shine in the dark for several hours. They did this this by injecting special nanoparticles into the leaves of the plant.

“The idea is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don't have to plug in,” explained the head of the research team at MIT.

The MIT team injected the leaves of spinach, watercress and other plants with nanoparticles containing luciferase. This is the enzyme that makes fireflies shine in the dark. Then they put the plants in a liquid with another type of enzyme. The different chemicals reacted with the luciferase enzyme, and the plants started to produce light.

In the first experiments, the team developed plants that produced light lasting 3.5 hours. But the scientists are trying to improve the technique and hope to find an easy way to put the nanoparticles onto the leaves of big plants, such as trees.

Maybe, in the future, our homes will be lit by plants and our streets will be lit by trees. This would save a lot of energy and would help to reduce greenhouse gases.

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Advanced

Vocabulary: Verb + alternative prepositions

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The news story

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Light green

Engineers have created plants that glow in the dark that potentially could replace some kinds of electrical lighting, such as street lights.

A team of specialists at MIT has succeeded in developing a plant that emits a dim light lasting several hours. They achieved this by injecting special nanoparticles into the leaves of the plant.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don't have to plug in,” explained the head of the research study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT team injected the leaves of kale, spinach, rocket and watercress with nanoparticles containing luciferase, which is the enzyme that makes fireflies glow in the dark. Then, they bathed the plants in a solution containing another type of enzyme and applied pressure to the plants. This allowed the chemicals to enter the plant’s pores where they reacted with the luciferase enzyme, causing the plant to emit light.

The study is in the initial stages and in the first experiments the team produced plants that emitted enough light to read a book lasting 3.5 hours. However, the scientists hope to develop the technique further, aiming to find a way to spray the nanoparticles directly onto the leaves of plants and turning large plants, such as trees, into light sources.

In the future, our homes and neighbourhoods could be lit by plants, with trees replacing street lighting. Today about 20% of our energy consumption goes on lighting, but this technique would allow us to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a significant amount.

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