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Seaweed Forms Dynamic Opal-Like Photonic Nanostructures

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Intracellular opal-like photonic crystals, formed from lipids within photosynthetic cells, have been observed to produce vivid structural color in the algae Cystoseira tamariscifolia. The bright blue and green iridescent sheen from the brown algae arises when the plant self-assembles a nanostructure of tiny oil droplets, made by the seaweed, to control how light reflects from the seaweed cells containing chloroplasts. The seaweed, known commonly as “rainbow wrack,” can switch this self-assembly on and off over the course of hours, creating changing opal-like photonic crystals that...Read full article

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