In 2013 there was a Chinese study published on "Bioluminescence as a light source for photosynthesis," which is briefly summarized in this Chemistry World article. There was a question on Biology.SE about a year earlier asking about the feasibility of such (and a somewhat related question for photovoltaics also in 2013).

My question here is if there is any newer research in the area of bioluminescence powering photosynthesis? Bonus if it is even more specifically related to any kind of crop production (so on a larger scale).

Please note:

  • I am not a biologist (last biology I took was AP Biology in high school a number of years ago).
  • From the other answers here on Biology.SE, I understand there is inefficiency with the use of bioluminescent light for "powering" things, but I'm still interested in more theory behind it as related to photosynthesis (hence the question about any newer research) for purposes of a fictional work I'm pursuing where sunlight is not an option. As a side question, imagine a "sky" of bioluminescence; would that be enough to grow some level of crops or trees?
  • $\begingroup$ Consider conservation of energy: where does the energy for the bioluminescence come from? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 10, 2018 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Well for purposes of the main question here, from wherever the sources for the bioluminescence get their energy from based on whatever particular source a recent study experimented with. For purposes of my side question for my fictional work, an animal that primarily "feeds" off geothermal heat (of which it has an unlimited supply to feed off of). While that part may be a point of "suspension of belief" in my story, I want to figure out if "reality" confirms that some size/level of normal Earth plants could be grown by the bio-light assuming enough light is generated. $\endgroup$
    – ScottS
    Apr 10, 2018 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ Well, there's physics again :-( Thermodynamics, this time. You can't simply feed off heat, you need a temperature gradient. But assuming you have some way of generating bioluminescence that's strong enough, and of the right spectrum, you can grow plants. It's no different than using LED grow lights for house plants: gardeners.com/how-to/gardening-under-lights/5080.html But the natural bioluminescence I've seen is far too weak. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 11, 2018 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "a temperature gradient" with respect to the feeding, other than are you saying the rate the heat flows into the animal? But this question is not about that aspect. So theoretically, if the bioluminescence was of an intensity/duration equal to an overcast day, then most plants (except perhaps those that really like direct sunlight) would grow fine (if I understand you). The fact that it is bioluminescent light vs. sunlight is not directly a factor on photosynthesis. $\endgroup$
    – ScottS
    Apr 11, 2018 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ By temperature gradient, I mean there has to be a difference in temperature in order to extract energy - just as a rock won't roll downhill if it's on flat ground. WRT photosynthesis, yes, as long as the light has enough energy and the proper spectrum, the plants don't care where it came from: hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Biology/ligabs.html $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:51


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