Magenta glass could provide the opportunity to increase effectiveness of plant growth and reduce energy emissions in order to cultivate and grow healthier and more sustainable plants.
Greenhouses are already built in such a way that they receive a lot of sunlight, so the question is, why not incorporate solar panels into them? Well that's just what the University of California, Santa Cruz spinoff company, Soliculture, has done. The twist is that their greenhouse rooves are not clear but actually coloured magenta. According to a new study the colour doesn't harm plant growth but actually increases it.
The greenhouses utilise Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). This technology reportedly “generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems”.
Embedded in the roof panel glass is a bright magenta luminescent dye that absorbs blue and green wavelengths of light and transfers its energy to narrow photovoltaic strips. These strips produce the electricity that can be used to power things in the greenhouse such as fans, heaters and watering systems. This revolutionary system could allow greenhouses to go completely sustainable and not rely on fossil fuels.
In a UC Santa Cruz study led by the Soliculture co-founder Professor Michael Loik, a variety of plants were grown in both conventional glasshouses and in magenta ones. These plants included 20 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, peppers, strawberries and basil. The researchers monitored both photosynthesis and fruit production.
According to Loik, 80 percent of the plants weren't affected by the magenta light and 20 percent actually grew better. Additionally, tomato plants grown in the magenta glasshouses required 5 percent less water.
“I thought the plants would grow more slowly, because it's darker under these pink panels,” says Loik. “Plants are sensitive not just to the intensity of light but also to colour. But it turns out the plants grow just as well.”
This study provides the opportunity for greenhouses to become more sustainable and more effective at once.