I'm trying to construct an anaerobic kitchen-waste digester at home.

The major output from the digester is methane - with a significant component of carbon dioxide. To scrub/reduce the CO2 I was thinking of passing the methane through a freshwater container charged with algae ... then it occurred to me to also think of introducing some bioluminescent algae to drive the photosynthesis & absorb some of the oxygen released by the other algae. Understandably this would be an unbalanced system.

But ... can bioluminescence drive photosynthesis?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like an interesting project. But why not just expose the algae to sunlight? $\endgroup$
    – Poshpaws
    Oct 31, 2012 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ Also, what are you going to do with the methane? $\endgroup$
    – Poshpaws
    Oct 31, 2012 at 10:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't laugh. I forgot why I didn't want to expose the algae to sunlight ... To answer the second question - burn it! $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Oct 31, 2012 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ This mainly depends on three things: The emission wavelength of the bioluminescence, the intensity of the bioluminescence and the optimum wavelength of the photosynthesis. I don't have actual numbers, but my educated guess is that the bioluminescence, even if the wavelengths fit, is way to weak to show an effect. $\endgroup$
    – Eekhoorn
    Oct 31, 2012 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ this is like asking if opening a refrigerator in the kitchen can cool the kitchen. it can, but only if you spend a lot of energy. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Oct 31, 2012 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


Yes and no. Yes as in the energetics do work out and you will be going down a small but non-trivial driving force as long as you continue to provide the luciferin to the algae.

However, the wavelengths of light by which photosynthesis absorbs its energy are well defined and narrow. As a result, light sources for photosynthetic organisms have to be fairly strong and bright to cover the whole spectrum to provide the necessary light. As a result, your bioluminescent algae will also have to emit light at the desired wavelength to achieve a high photochemical efficiency and provide light to both Photosystem II and Photosystem I which have different wavelength requirements.

enter image description here
(source: gsu.edu)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Marine species tend to emit light of wavelength between 440 and 479 nm (bluish), which is the range of greatest optical transparency of seawater." - quantum-immortal.net/physics/biolum.php So it's in the correct wavelength range, but I'm with shigeta - it's not going all that efficient (unless, of course, there's the possibility for breeding brighter algae). $\endgroup$
    – MCM
    Oct 31, 2012 at 22:39

Curiously enough, this was the subject of a paper in 2013. The authors claimed to have driven photosynthesis by submerging some dark-adapted leaves into a solution containing a mixture of luminol, hydrogen peroxide and horseradish peroxidase (HRP).

They measure the levels of starch on the leaves produced in three different solution concentrations and bioluminescence irradiance levels.

As the leaves were severed from the plant I do not see much of a future in submerging leaves or an entire plant in this solution but it would be interesting see how algae would react. Also, I am very curious the luminol could potentially be injected in the plant, although this might be far fetched.

The link to the paper below:



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