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How to Grow Better Lettuce … in Space

A novel technique for manipulating light could prove a boon to agriculture on our planet—and beyond.
The University of Arizona’s prototype lunar greenhouse.

The University of Arizona’s prototype lunar greenhouse.

Photographer: Cassidy Araiza for Bloomberg Businessweek

The key to better eating on Mars might be a technology whose main commercial use today is enhancing the colors on television screens.

Quantum dots, or QDs, are tiny man-made particles whose properties can be manipulated so they emit specific colors when exposed to light. In consumer electronics, this proves useful for making brighter, more energy-efficient screens. In agricultural settings, quantum dots can be integrated into films that convert sunlight to orange and red light, colors that boost plants’ photosynthetic efficiency.