The ecosystem will consist of several different microbes, each of which plays a role in nutrient recycling and population control. The result is a closed ecosystem that will sustain itself with the addition of just light [...]
The result will be a stable, closed, microbial ecosystem that glows in the dark. — RocketHub
Undergraduate researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are developing a sustainable bacterial ecosystem that will be able to produce light. The "Biobulb" will use a lab-neutered version of the E. Coli bacteria (totally harmless) that has been encoded with the gene for bioluminescence, the same phenomenon that accounts for a firefly's glow. A cocktail of other bacteria will support the E. Coli in a closed ecosystem that needs only light to stay alive -- and the entire thing can fit in a jar.
The three undergraduates working on Biobulb (AnaElise Beckman, Alexandra Cohn, and Michael Zaiken, part of the Frontier Fellows program) are seeking funding for the project through RocketHub, an online crowd-sourcing platform tailored more toward scientific and philanthropic ventures than consumer/creative goods. For a donation of $1,000 or more, the team will encrypt a personalized message of up to 40 characters onto the E. Coli DNA.
Just how bright the Biobulb will be is unclear, or for how long it will shine without receiving more light. But the more work bacteria can do, the better: check out this post on bacteria engineered to patch concrete and fungi-grown styrofoam replacements.