New exhibition

German Museum shows glowing plants in Bonn

So sehen Pflanzen aus, wenn sie leuchten. Die Ausstellung dazu ist im Deutschen Museum zu sehen.

This is how plants look when they can glow. A new exhibition explains how this works.

Bonn. Plants can glow. Why and how? The German Museum explains this in a new exhibition.

If you think that plants don’t shine like LED lights in the dark, you haven’t been to the German Museum in Bonn. In a darkroom, the centre piece of the exhibition „The glow of the plants“, you can see the mysterious light and learn why and how plants can glow. 

It is a secret red light that these living plants send out and that enables scientists to get new insights in details of photosynthesis. The glow is called chlorophyll fluorescence, a side product of the photo synthesis process, which creates the oxygen we humans could not live without. 

„Photosynthesis is the most important biochemical process on Earth“ said Uwe Rascher of the Institute for plant science in the research centre Jülich during the opening of the exhibition. Whenever these living plants catch light, they send out a weak red glow. During the photosynthesis they turn CO2 into sugar and fluorescent light by using chlorophyll.

But why can’t we see the fluorescence although it’s always there? How can it be made visible? How does it develop? Which advantages does it have to measure the chlorophyll fluorescence? These questions all get answered in the exhibition. 

The chlorophyll fluorescence enables scientists to research the energy metabolism of plants. During dry spells and if there are not sufficient amounts of nutrients available, plants get stressed - which can be measured by the changes in their fluorescence light. „You can also see, if there is something wrong long before the plants’ leaves are wilting“, explained Rascher. Beneficiaries of the results of this research will be the agricultural sector, because damaged plants can be noticed before they turn brown.

The plant climate science might also be able to develop models to cultivate ecosystems in the best possible way.

The German Museum Bonn, Ahrstraße 45, shows this exhibition until September 23. It is open Tuesday - Friday from 10am until 5pm, and on Saturdays from 12noon until 5pm.

Original text: Rainer Schmidt

Translation: Mareike Graepel