Living Light is an off-grid lamp powered by photosynthesis

Dutch designer Ermi van Oers has created a lamp that uses a living plant to generate its own electricity –

and plans to scale up the technology to power entire smart cities.

Presented at Dutch Design Week, the Living Light uses microorganisms to convert the chemical energy that a plant naturally produces during photosynthesis into an electric current.

Van Oers designed the lamp to be fully self-sufficient, so it can function off-grid, rather than needing to be plugged into an electrical socket.

She has already began to apply the technology – known as microbial energy – to public spaces, and is collaborating with the municipality of Rotterdam to light up one of its parks.

"The potential is huge," she told Dezeen. "Street lights could be connected to trees. Forests could become power plants. Rice fields in Indonesia could produce food and electricity for the local population."

The Living Light encases a plant inside a glass tube. As the plant photosynthesises, it releases organic compounds into a soil chamber below.

The organic matter is broken down by bacteria fostered through a microbial fuel cell – a system that mimics bacterial interactions found in nature. When this happens, electrons are created and transported away from the soil.

The electric current is passed along a wire and fed into a ring fitted with LEDs. These light up when a user touches the plant's leaves.

Van Oers claims that future cities could be powered exclusively by plants in a similar way, by replacing the electric grid with a more sustainable microbial energy system.