Jump to content
Science Forums

We need a trillion more indoor plants.

Recommended Posts

More interesting indoor plants are urgently needed. especially in hotels, lecture theaters, cinemas and office blocks. they reduce polution, oxgenate the air and lock up CO2 reducing our greenhouse problem(even better if in a Terra preta potting mix)


The Benefits of Indoor Plants


Adjunct Professor Margaret Burchett at the University of Technology Sydney led a number of trials with plants placed inside large airtight glass containers or chambers.


Common pollutant chemicals were pumped into the containers and the researchers were astonished at how much of the pollution was gobbled up – totally gone. It turned out that the microbes in the potting mix in association with the plant were doing the work.


Three large pot plants per room (that’s floor-standing sized plants like these) are enough to clean the air to the point where contaminants are negligible.


. . .


In what Professor Burchett terms a “dungeon” (basement) or window-tight situation, there is a toxic mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in indoor air. Although these compounds are present indoors in low individual concentrations, they are capable of producing toxic symptoms in humans — and the cocktail can be addictive, or even synergistic in its effects.

. . .


Dominant VOC toxicity symptoms are sore eyes, nose and throat; a feeling of dizziness; loss of concentration; headaches; mild nausea; faint disorientation; and mildly depersonalised feelings. These are the same symptoms present in “sick building syndrome” or “building-related illness”.


. . .


can achieve a complete removal of VOCs in 24 hours in a closed chamber with no ventilation, and a 10 to 20 per cent reduction in flow-through conditions.


These removal rates rise with increasing VOC concentrations, which have been tested from five to 1000 parts per million in the case of benzine (where the occupational maximum indoor concentration in Australia is five ppm, averaged over an eight-hour day)

. . .


. . .

it was found that pot plants reduced by one third the build-up of nitrogen oxides in houses with gas fires and stoves, which produce these compounds.


A recent Swedish study to improve the indoor environment in an x-ray unit situated in a hospital “dungeon”, demonstrated conclusively that pot plants not only achieved a substantial reduction in total VOCs in the indoor air but also reduced worker absenteeism by 60 per cent.


According to Professor Burchett, UTS research has confirmed the potential of potted plants as a portable, mass-marketable, integrated biofiltration system to improve indoor air quality.


“Urban dwellers often spend more than 80 per cent of their time indoors, so indoor air quality is a major health consideration. Potted plants will be increasingly used as a flexible indoor biofiltration system, as well as for beautifying indoor spaces.”

The World Health Organisation report, The Right to Healthy Indoor Air, published in 2000, highlights increasing recognition of a legal obligation on the part of owners and managers to supply healthy air for the occupants, and consequently the trend to using customised plant boxes as part of that solution has already commenced in some countries.



See also http://www.aih.org.au/mburchett_transcript_040305.pdf for a transcript of a talk Prof Burchett gave to the Australian Institute of Horticulture


The Benefits of Indoor Plants - Sustainable Gardening Australia

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Didn't know plants got rid of VOCs.


It would be excellent if plants became a totally integral part of the house. Perhaps it would be possile to genetically engineer plants specifically for the purpose of household atmospheric cleaning?


(Cool idea for science fiction in any case.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i grew up being told that spider plants were great for cleaning the air. especially if there is a smoker in the house. i know nothing about it, but since i can remember i have always had a couple spider plants in my home, even now.


the only hard part with this is not all houses are light enough. in cold climates, lots of windows (good light) would lead to lost heat and you would need to use more power, more greenhouse gases, to heat your house (unless your the proactive type and buy a sweater).


i have recently planted a few hundred seeds of various plants, so i guess we only need 999,999,999,700 more :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Didn't know plants got rid of VOCs.


It would be excellent if plants became a totally integral part of the


Apart from soaking up co2

Indoor plants improve office air


Wednesday, 28 August 2002


Sydney researchers have found that indoor plants improve the air quality of rooms with little or no airflow.


A team led by Adjunct Professor Margaret Burchett at the University of Technology, Sydney, have found that common indoor potted plants such as the Peace Lily and the Kentia Palm improve indoor air by reducing levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.


The scientists found that indoor plants reduce VOCs by up to 100 per cent over 24 hours in a closed environment.


VOCs include compounds such as benzene and hexane, and are known to be toxic to humans at high levels. They are present at low levels in many indoor environments. Some, like benzene, make their way inside buildings through pollution from traffic outside. Others are present as a result of their use in paints, carpeting, and furniture fabric, especially in new or recently refurbished buildings.


According to Dr Stephen Brown of CSIRO Built Environment, VOCs can contribute to 'sick building syndrome' — a phenomenon in which a higher proportion of occupants experience symptoms such as dry eyes, dry nose and throat, headache, lethargy, and nausea.

News in Science - Indoor plants improve office air - 28/08/2002


Research Findings: Overall and Men vs. Women


In an eight-month study, the Texas A&M University research team explored the link between flowers and plants and workplace productivity. Participants performed creative problem solving tasks in a variety of common office environments, or conditions. The conditions included a workplace with flowers and plants, a setting with sculpture and an environment with no decorative embellishments.


During the study, both women and men demonstrated more innovative thinking, generating more ideas and original solutions to problems in the office environment that included flowers and plants. In these surroundings, men who participated in the study generated 15% more ideas. And, while males generated a greater abundance of ideas, females generated more creative, flexible solutions to problems when flowers and plants were presen

Flowers & Plants Improve Workplace Productivity

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alexandra de Blas: Imagine city skyscrapers, covered in greenery that you can walk up like mountains. Green facades, instead of granite, and rows of apartments concealed by shrubbery and mounds of earth. Well that�s happening, and Emillio Ambnasz is one of the leaders in the field. He�s been designing buildings like this for three decades. An Argentinian by birth, his New York based firm creates radical buildings that put green over grey across the globe.


Emillio Ambasz: I believe that land belongs to all and a building that occupies a piece of land should give back the land to the community and should give it back in the form of gardens, which are accessible to everybody.

Second, I think that the emotional needs that people have for decoration, for ornament, are provided certainly by plants.

People like plants and feel peaceful close to plants, and serenity with plants. Also there are a number of very practical advantages if the building is covered with plants or with earth or with flowers or anything of that sort, it can reduce the amount of heat that goes into the building, so it becomes much cheaper to maintain the building because it doesn�t require so much heating or cooling. It purifies the air outside. It is a situation where every party wins.

Flowers & Plants Improve Workplace Productivity



Research: Biophilia

"The indoor trees must provide the same sensations that I am feeling now [in Planterra's greenhouses]: relaxed, breathing fresh air and enjoying the sights of natural green sculpture," says Purd'homme.


"The earth made these trees, not a factory" he continues, suggesting that if he wanted a fourteen-foot sculpture or furniture piece it would cost a whole lot more than a tree. He adds, "That's the financial bottom line. We must rediscover how to responsibly enjoy nature's gifts."



Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals

TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY, Dr. Roger S. Ulrich


Prompted by soaring hospital construction cost, the College of Architecture and Medicine at Texas A&M University conducted a joint study on the influences of plants in hospitals and healthcare facilities. The study found that the presence of plants in hospitals improves client and staff satisfaction. Dr. Ulrich discovered that simply viewing nature and green garden scenes can relive stress in 5 minutes or less.


For more information read, Dr. Ulrich Symposium


Curative Benefits

Therapeutic gardens are spaces created to benefit a specific user, such as residences in cancer center. The gardens are designed for both mental and physical relaxation.


According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, the benefits of therapeutic garden environments have been understood since ancient times.


In the 19th century, Dr, Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and considered the "Father of American Psychiatry," asserted that garden settings hold curative effects for people with mental illness. Some benefits include reduced stress, lower blood pressure and exposure to vitamin D from the sun.


Many hospital spokespeople say gardens are an escape for patients to reclaim their dignity, noting that nature provides universal familiarity and comfort.

Research: Biophilia

Sache echoes these kinds of consideration for patients based on the medical oath, "Do no harm." The landscape must be safe for the population "the more plants the better," she says. The lusher the garden, the more likely patients will be able to mentally escape.


Flexibly and water are the next suggestion on Carman and Sachs' list. The garden should be able to evolve and adapt to the needs of the users. Carman acknowledges that some facilities have budgeted for changes better than others, and having good donors can certainly help.


Based on "our primordial relationship" with water, Sachs suggests adding a water feature. Even adding a small fountain in the waiting room can calm patients by helping to mask the unpleasant sounds sometimes associated with medical facilities.

lots of info at this site

Planterra - Interior Landscapes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Or the roof

Imagine every city roof with a garden!


This is a good start and example

SF Gate: Multimedia (image)

A GARDEN IN THE SKY / S.F. museum's roof puts green building techniques to the test

San Francisco Chronicle


S.F. museum's roof puts green building techniques to the test


Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer

Saturday, May 12, 2007


The roof of the California Academy of Sciences building p... Beach strawberries are among the nine species of native p... Cooper Scollan of Rana Creek Wholesale Nursery in Carmel ... A self-sustaining, colorful top to the new California Aca... More...


Work crews are about to start planting the roof of the new California Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park -- an architectural capstone that also qualifies as one of the world's most ambitious biodiversity experiments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More green roofs!


In all, the shopping center will have 47,180 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 20,250 square feet of office space on the second floor of the two-story building. Additional parking will be offered in an underground garage.


The green roof will encompass about 40,000 square feet, making it by far the largest green roof in the southeastern Pennsylvania area. Other green roofs in the area include a planned 18,000-square-foot green roof on the new headquarters of Dansko Inc. in Jennersville. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s office in Norristown has a 688-square-foot green roof. There is also a green roof on a private residence in Kennett Square and at the Kimberton-Waldorf School.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

nice roof gardens! i tried that and ended up with a leaky cracked concrete roof....now i just keep green decks :evil:


i still wonder about some of those plants usefulness as air cleaners. some need much light....and things like cacti grow so slowly, how can they clean the air much (referring to some of the pics with cacti in their office). pretty, yes, useful not really.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

nice roof gardens! i tried that and ended up with a leaky cracked concrete roof....now i just keep green decks :evil:


Yes I had problems too mainly because my Crazy Irish Electrician cut a hole in the roof to put the electrical wiring in.

Me: Talking to him on the roof looking at a 4 foot diameter hole.

"But I have spent thousands putting the power underground Look down there":angryfire:


"How am I going to waterproof this!!!:angryfire:

I doon't know. It ain't go'n ta be easy"


:rainumbrella: :rainumbrella:

Never did water proof it, leaked down into the power box no-matter what I did

:rainumbrella: :rainumbrella: :rainumbrella:

I did this 25 years ago and roof waterproofing polymers have gone a long way since then. They were hard to find when I was building. (You can always use copper sheets-talk to me first.)


Another Crazy Irish Electrician story.

He was very high up on tip-toe on top of a ladder putting in a light-fitting when the was a tremendous BOOM! :lightning

He was thrown though the air for about 30 feet

He picked himself up; shook his head; and said

"I must remember to use an insulated screw driver." (TRUE STORY, I aged 10 years building. The builder helping me was also retarded. My answer if I din't know something as to go and find out. His answer to anything that didn't work was to bung a six inch nail in it.

MORAL hire a German electrician not an Irish one( or never build anything.)

:bloom: :dust: :tree:

I still wonder about some of those plants usefulness as air cleaners. some need much light....and things like cacti grow so slowly, how can they clean the air much (referring to some of the pics with cacti in their office). pretty, yes, useful not really.

Good question; Glad you asked.


Here is some work that NASA has done on plants. (formaldehyde has been banned in alot of countries now but it was/is/ a major air-pollutant in office blocks.) recently the ABC closed down one of it's buildings as a dozen women came down with breast cancer. The prof who investigated it said the chances of that happing by chance was more than a billion to one.

:bloom: :dust: :tree:


NASA Study shows common plants help reduce indoor air pollution....


Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution.

Those plants in your office or home are not only decorative, but NASA scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside modern buildings.


NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) have announced the findings of a 2-year study that suggest a sophisticated pollution-absorbing device: the common indoor plant may provide a natural way of helping combat "SICK BUILDING SYNDROME".

. . .

Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules.

Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere.

Other good performers are Dracaena Massangeana, Spathiphyllum, and Golden Pothos. "Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their leaves," Wolverton said.

"But research in our laboratories has determined that plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing trace levels of toxic vapors".

. . .

TOP 10 plants most effective in removing: formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.


Common Name Scientific Name

Bamboo Palm Chamaedorea Seifritzii

Chinese Evergreen Aglaonema Modestum

English Ivy Hedera Helix

Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii

Janet Craig Dracaena "Janet Craig"

Marginata Dracaena Marginata

Mass cane/Corn Plant Dracaena Massangeana

Mother-in-Law's Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii

Pot Mum Chrysantheium morifolium

Peace Lily Spathiphyllum "Mauna Loa"

Warneckii Dracaena "Warneckii

More here:_

NASA Study - Plants Clean the Air!!!

:bloom: :dust: :tree:

Plants "Clean" Air Inside Our Homes

A team of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers lead by Dr. Bill Wolverton tested the effect of fifteen house plants on three pollutants known to be present in spacecrafts.

These same three pollutants--benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene--are present in homes and office buildings.

They occur because they are emitted from furnishings, office equipment and some building materials.


Under controlled conditions, in the NASA study, certain houseplants were found to remove as much as 87 percent of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours.

. . .

More HERE: (There is a good chart at this site showing where the main pollutants come from and the best plants for getting rid of each one.


NASA is having trouble funding future research This is a experiment (propaganda) exercise for kids

:: NASA Quest > Space ::


Teaming Up on Space Plants

:bloom: :dust: :tree:


After 24 hours, spider plants removed:

96% CO, 99% NO2

After 24 hours, Golden pothos removed:

75% CO

Indoor Air Quality in Florida: Houseplants to Fight Pollution

:bloom: :dust: :tree:

Third photo across is plants growing in space:alien:

If we can grow them in space we can grow them anywhere.

Right: When building a "greenhouse" in space, the light source needs to be as efficient as possible to reduce energy demands. This picture shows wheat growing under Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) -- the same technology used for indicator lights in consumer electronics. LEDs save energy by only releasing light in frequencies that plants can use for photosynthesis.

Leafy Green Astronauts

:bloom: :dust: :tree:

Some Australian Research :kangaroo:

"It is important to know that indoor plants can reduce the number of contaminants by up to 75% down to completely negligible levels," she said on 774 ABC Melbourne’s Saturday Morning Gardening segment. "As far as we know, any standard indoor plant will do it, because it’s mainly the micro organisms of the potting mix which actually do the sucking up and degrading them harmless carbon dioxide. The plant does play a direct role, but its main task is feeding and supporting the micro organisms, and so you have a little microcosm there, a symbiotic relationship with the plants and microbes cooperating."

Indoor plants taking up volatile organic compounds :: ABC Melbourne

To me that sounds like a Terra preta style potting mix would be ideal!!


This is about the ABC 'sick building' I mentioned

]ABC to shut down Brisbane HQ amid cancer concerns[/b]

Reporter: Kathy McLeish


HEATHER EWART: In a dramatic and unprecedented move, the ABC has announced that its Brisbane headquarters is being shut down.

Relocation of hundreds of staff is already under way after experts confirmed high levels of breast cancer among workers.

7.30 Report - 21/12/2006: ABC to shut down Brisbane HQ amid cancer concerns
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's time to bring the dirt inside as indoor plants become the latest retro fashion.

Consider the fiddler's fig, named because its cabbage-sized leaves are shaped vaguely like a violin. It grows to a towering six metres. "They are a design feature in themselves," Unsworth says.


Wollemi pines, he says, work well in bright areas and their towering size and prehistoric, round leaves make for a striking room feature. Such singular, oversized statement plants are ideal for light wells and atriums.


The best way to use indoor plants, he says, is by "keeping it simple and, if you are using more than one plant, using just one species". Unsworth suggests a row of identical miniature ponytail palms on a window sill or giant mondo grass massed in a long trough-shaped vase or dish for a "lush and grassy" effect.


The indoor gardener must always pay attention. Plants should be kept inside "for no more than two weeks then give them a bit of sun outside. But be careful when you put [plants] outside that you don't shock them by putting them in bright sunshine."


Garden designer Peter Fudge also has advice. "I suggest you double up on chosen plants and swap them over, giving each some time outside."

House & Home - Life & Style Home - theage.com.au

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
The growth of high-rise gardens: Let a thousand rooftops bloom

A dazzling horticultural revolution is breaking out over south-east Asia, as cities discover the many benefits that gardens can bring to the 21st-century urban environment.

. . .


A surgeon called Arthur van Langenberg has become the poet laureate and brave champion of urban gardening - and is on a mission to show that living in Hong Kong does not mean abandoning your connection to nature. He was surprised to discover there was no manual on how to garden in the city, so in 1983 he published Urban Gardening for Hong Kong.

In 2005 he published a follow-up called Urban Gardening: A Hong Kong Gardener's Journal. Dr van Langenberg's works look at some of the challenges of gardening in a high-rise environment.

Some avowed enemies include birds, dogs, cats and sceptical neighbours. His own simple beginnings commenced with "flower pots on window sills, wooden packing crates in verandahs, dragon urns at entrances, eventually graduating to a small garden"

. . .

Wilson Wong, 28, started the Green Culture website in September 2004, which provides information for local horticulturalists.

. . .

The website has helped Mr Wong to develop his own skills, allowing him to grow plants under fluorescent lights and even start to cultivate flowers, the first one being the flame violet (Episcia), as well as learn the basics of landscaping and about outdoor plants. The website forum has attracted more than 1,500 high-rise gardeners in Singapore, seeking advice and looking to track down seeds, swap plant cuttings and generally enjoy the community of other green-fingered enthusiasts. Late last year, he started a community garden near his home.


Last month Singapore unveiled Treelodge@Punggol, its first "green" housing estate. Plants growing on the walls keep the 712 apartments inside the seven 16-storey tower blocks cool and pleasant. On top is an eco-deck, a large garden with a jogging track and exercise stations.

. .

The government is keen to plant more trees before the Olympic Games in Beijing next year to help break down pollution and stop dust from the Gobi desert choking the dry city during the summer. The city plans to plant 510,000 trees in the Olympic Forest Park near the Olympic stadium..

The growth of high-rise gardens: Let a thousand rooftops bloom - Independent Online Edition > Asia

An inspiring article worth a read

the "west" is being left behind eating it's own dust.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
…See also http://www.aih.org.au/mburchett_transcript_040305.pdf for a transcript of a talk Prof Burchett gave to the Australian Institute of Horticulture
A very interesting and straightforward paper. Particularly, I think, the finding that a specific concentration of total volatile organic compounds – about 100 parts per billion – is necessary to “kick start the metabolic induction process for VOC removal”, indicating that the process is an interactive, dynamic one rather than a passive one, as one might expect from plants.


The obvious implication of the experiments Burchett, Wood, Orwell, Tarran, Torpy, and Alquezar’s paper describe is that common potted plants (the plants, not their soil) can effectively remove common VOCs – very useful, especially in buildings such as leased commercial offices, where the tenants have little control over VOC sources such as building materials.


The link in post one appears broken – I found Burchett, Wood, Orwell, Tarran, Torpy, and Alquezar’s paper at its last (10/4/2006) archive.org page.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Yes this was the only other paper I had seen other than the NASA research.

Have you seen anything else?


Unfortunately I find indoor plants boring. They rarely flower, you can't eat, smell or use them medicinally.


Whenever i try to buy wide spectrum lights to fit into my conventional fittings (in order to grow more interesting plants indoors) people look at me strangely and often wink. Bizarre!


I saw an amazing array of LED? lights at a NASA site. I don't know what they are using but I am too scared to ask in case the Fuzz knocks at the door


Indoor plants might just save our, or our progeny's life and/or health


Air Pollution Linked to Genetic Mutations

by Ken Kostel

62: Air Pollution Linked to Genetic Mutations | Environment | DISCOVER Magazine


More than 10 years ago, Jim Quinn, a behavioral ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, determined that herring gulls nesting near steel mills around the Great Lakes displayed higher heritable mutation rates than their rural cousins. In May Quinn and one of his students, Chris Somers, were finally able to pin the blame on airborne particles just a few micrometers in diameter.


They found that offspring born from male mice exposed to industrial air pollution showed twice the mutation rate of those whose fathers breathed rural or filtered polluted air.

The most likely cause, Quinn says, are small particles that can carry known mutation-causing compounds, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, deep into the lungs. Because particulates as well as polycyclic hydrocarbons are found in cigarette smoke, it’s likely that smoking could cause similar mutations.


The changes that Quinn saw showed up in genomic segments once known as junk DNA because they do not appear to code for necessary life functions. However, many of these regions are believed to play a role in diseases such as type 1 diabetes and Huntington’s disease.

A separate study that examined 18 years of data on the prevalence of neurological diseases worldwide concluded that environmental factors may also contribute to disorders like Parkinson’s disease.


Quinn is now looking more closely at the link between air pollution and mutations handed down from females. Because males continually produce fresh sperm, the apparent mutagenic effect of air pollution starts to disappear when they begin breathing clean air again. But in females, eggs are produced while an individual is still a fetus, raising the possibility that exposure to airborne pollutants in utero could cause lasting damage.

“There are many reasons other than mutations to be concerned about air pollution,” Quinn says. “This just adds strength to the argument that we need to do something about it.”


I haven't seen any specific stuff on plants and PAHs


Implication: PAHs are classified as probable human carcinogens.

High Amounts of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Found in Dust from The World Trade Tower Disaster - DERT

The group of PAHs comprises hundreds of individual chemicals. In environmental compartments, usually only a few compounds are monitored because of practical and financial reasons

Evaluation of ambient air concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Germany from 1990 to 1998

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately I find indoor plants boring. They rarely flower, you can't eat, smell or use them medicinally.


an indoor plant is just a plant that is indoor, whether its useful or not, its all up to you to use it. look into other species. i can think of a few edible herbs, fruits, "special", fragrant, flowering blah blah blah plants that will do fine indoors under various circumstances...many times you will not need to change your bulbs, cause they are so far away anyway it makes little difference. your sliding glass door, or window is a great source, and glass only filters X% of UV and certain colours out.



i always thought a cool experiment (non probable i know) would be to grow a long stretch, few KM, of a single specie of plant then another few km of another etc etc. have it say 1/2 km wide and have it somewhere where the wind consistently blew through the line in the same direction. have various ways of detecting various chemicals/gases on both sides and see which one is filtered more effectively. be a fun game if i you were rich. and i am sure there are much smaller methods like this being done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

the interesting plants seem to need more light


I have been reading up on it but everyone thinks your a hydroponic MJ grower

I found a fascinating article from NASA from 2001.

You would think the technology would have moved on even from then

I have tried to track down more info but with much luck


It would be nice to just plug in wide-spectrum lights to my standard old house fittings.


And while a human expedition outside Earth orbit still might be years away, the space farming efforts are ultimately aimed at developing artificial light sources that promise to help make future explorers self-sufficient at space colonies on the moon, Mars or beyond.

Leafy Green Astronauts


"We know for a long-duration mission, say going to Mars, that there will be too much launch mass involved in order to take everything you need," said Gregory Goins, a research scientist with Dynamac Corp., the life sciences contractor here at NASA's coastal Florida spaceport.


"You just can't put enough in the picnic basket to survive."


So Goins and other Space Age gardeners are testing two high-efficiency light sources that future space colonists might use not only to grow food but also to generate and purify oxygen and water -- key sustainers of human life.


The removal of carbon dioxide from a closed environment is another added benefit.


"Plants are the only way we know of where we can generate enough food, water and oxygen to support humans for such a long flight because we know re-supply is not an option. And so plants are a very appealing approach to use," Goins said.


"But in order to use plants, you must have an energy source, and that energy source is light," he added. "And the lights we use in our homes are not energy efficient enough to get the job done. So that's why we're developing these innovative technology lights."

"Standard light sources that we use in homes and in greenhouses and in growth chambers for controlled agriculture here on Earth are not efficient enough for space travel. Not only that, they don't last a very long time," Goins said.


"And in space, heat is like trash. You make it, and you've got to get rid of it, so we don't want heat. We want light."


In recent years, dramatic improvements in lighting technology have provided NASA and its support contractors with new means to develop low-power space-farming systems that will last the life of a building -- or a greenhouse on the surface of Mars.


Working in plant growth chambers the size of walk-in refrigerators, Goins and other plant physiologists here are experimenting with blue and red Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, to grow salad plants such as lettuce and radishes.


Similar to devices now used to manufacture advanced traffic lights, the LEDs enable researchers to eliminate other wavelengths found within normal white light, thus reducing the amount of energy required to power the plant growth lamps.


The LEDs generate less heat, and while leaves take on a black hue due to the lack of green light to reflect, the plants grow normally and taste the same as those raised in white light.

Another bonus: The LEDs can last the length of a round-trip mission to Mars, unlike incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, which require frequent replacement.


Research scientist Greg Goins of Dynamac Corp. demonstrates the sulfur microwave lamp that provides continuous broad spectrum white light to plants. It can be adjusted to be twice the brightness of the noon sun on earth. © 2001, Tim Shortt, FLORIDA TODAY.

A second long-lasting light source being tested here: Sulfur Microwave Lamps.

Twice as efficient as other high-intensity sources, the microwave lamps can generate as much light as the noonday sun. The light in fact is so bright that it can be funneled through pipes and then distributed over large areas, such as a hothouse on the Martian highlands.

Lettuce and LEDs: Shedding New Light On Space Farming


Has anyone heard of this technology?

Has it gone anywhere? The above article is over 6 years old.

Is it commercially available?

I would imagine the lights would use small amounts of power or could run on solar panels(?)


It would not only be good for my house but would help get a lot more plants into offices and also more interesting varieties into Commercial Buildings.

You may even be able to grow your own lunch!


Would it also solve our vitamin D deficiency problems?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LED are really an interesting topic for plants...i looked into it a couple years back and got no where fast....but i think it has HIGH potential as it is not a hot light and doesnt waste as much. over here they are installing 100+ lumen/w lights on the streets....very cool! i think Japan has made it to 130 lumens/watt.


LED is the future, and even now it is fairly cheap (similar to the more expensive flouro units here).


as for indoor plants i still think that either plant rotation (that knocks off 9/10 people cause we are a lazy specie) and/or lighting. or more windows which will no doubt change heating/cooling costs....


i tried having plants inside here, and it looked great...but every pot will soon have an ants nest...back outside.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...