Simple marine algae called diatoms have evolved intricate structures that allow them to manipulate light. Visible light is strongly diffracted when it passes through tiny holes in their silica-based cell walls, scientists say. Understanding the physical principles that allow diatoms to trap solar energy more efficiently may also help develop new synthetic replicas.
A team led by Professor Peter Vukusic (University of Exeter) discovered that the diatom Coscinodiscus wailesii has a complex structure of large and small holes which strongly diffract light. It is believed that this may spread light more evenly throughout the diatom, improving on efficiency of photosynthesis.