Scientists uncover the secret behind shimmering seaweed | Science

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Martin Lopez-Garcia

CAMBRIDGE, U.Okay.—At low tide, the brown seaweed filling tide swimming pools alongside the coasts of Cornwall and Devon counties in the United Kingdom doesn’t appear to be a lot. However when the tidewaters rise to cowl it, this “rainbow wrack” shimmers in dazzling blues and greens (above). Now, scientists have found simply how the seaweed will get its shimmer.

By frozen samples below an electron microscope, scientists had been capable of zero in on nanostructures in the alga’s cells which might be about 1000 occasions smaller than a human hair is thick. They discovered that Cystoseira tamariscifolia produces the blue and inexperienced colours in its cells by packing tiny spheres of oil carefully collectively in an everyday manner, they reported right here at the Residing Mild convention and in a paper in Science Advances this week. The construction resembles that of tightly packed silica spheres in opal, which diffract gentle and produce the gemstone’s coveted shade.

However the operate of those opallike photonic crystals continues to be not clear. One clue: Below intense gentle, the ordered construction goes right into a disordered state and the colours rapidly fade. However when darkish circumstances return, so do the colours. That may assist the plant cope with low-light circumstances, say the scientists. In excessive tide, when much less gentle reaches the alga, the crystals might seize a few of the daylight and cross it on to the surrounding chloroplasts for photosynthesis.

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