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Volume 566 Issue 7745, 28 February 2019

Colour creation

The vibrant colours seen on butterfly wings or peacock feathers are examples of structural coloration, which occurs when micro- or nanoscale structured surfaces interfere with visible light. In this week’s issue, Lauren Zarzar and her colleagues reveal a previously unrecognized mechanism for generating structural iridescent colour from droplets of colourless liquid. The researchers found that micrometre-scale droplets suspended on the back of a transparent Petri dish, or multiphase droplets, reflect coloured light from their edges when illuminated with a beam of white light. The effect is not produced by material dispersion, as might be thought, but by an optical phenomenon based on interference of light that undergoes total internal reflection along the curved surface of the droplet. By varying the length and curvature of this interface, the researchers were able to control the colours generated, and by patterning droplets in a 2D array they managed to create pixelated images.

Cover image: Sara Nagelberg

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • Technology Feature

    • The extracellular matrix governs a surprising number of cellular functions. New techniques are revealing how cells and matrix communicate — and why this cross-talk matters.

      • Jyoti Madhusoodanan


      Technology Feature
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  • News & Views

    • Iridescent colours have been observed to be reflected from specially designed droplets of colourless liquids, with the reflected colour depending on the viewing angle. The finding reveals a curious mechanism for creating coloration.

      • Kenneth Chau
      News & Views
    • When cancer spreads, this metastatic stage of the disease is usually lethal. An analysis of immune cells that cluster with tumour cells in the bloodstream illuminates a partnership that might aid metastasis.

      • Mikala Egeblad
      • Karin E. de Visser
      News & Views
    • Quantum computers require controlled encoding to protect computations from environmental noise. Two experiments have achieved such encoding using what are known as infinite-dimensional quantum systems.

      • Alessandro Ferraro
      News & Views
    • How Nature reported preparations for the Moon landing in 1969, and a rare archaeological find in 1919.

      News & Views
    • Failed chemical reactions are often not reported, which means that vast amounts of potentially useful data are going to waste. Experiments show that machine learning can use such data to optimize the preparation of porous materials.

      • Seth Cohen
      News & Views
    • Studies of multiple sclerosis have long focused on the white matter of the brain. Insights into how immune cells target the brain’s grey matter now illuminate the stage of the disease at which neurodegeneration occurs.

      • Jenna L. Pappalardo
      • David A. Hafler
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  • Reviews

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    • Topological materials are thought to be scarce, but an algorithm that diagnoses nontrivial topology in nonmagnetic materials finds the opposite: more than 30 per cent of the 26,688 materials studied are topological.

      • Tiantian Zhang
      • Yi Jiang
      • Chen Fang
    • Topological quantum chemistry and newly developed codes are used to analyse and compute the topological properties of materials in a large crystal database and to identify new topological phases, finding that more than 27 per cent of all materials in nature are topological.

      • M. G. Vergniory
      • L. Elcoro
      • Zhijun Wang
    • Data from single-cell combinatorial-indexing RNA-sequencing analysis of 2 million cells from mouse embryos between embryonic days 9.5 and 13.5 are compiled in a cell atlas of mouse organogenesis, which provides a global view of developmental processes occurring during this critical period.

      • Junyue Cao
      • Malte Spielmann
      • Jay Shendure
    • In a rat model of multiple sclerosis, β-synuclein-specific T cells induce inflammation and pathological changes in the grey matter of the central nervous system; these cells were also found in higher numbers in patients with multiple sclerosis, particularly those with a chronic progressive course.

      • Dmitri Lodygin
      • Moritz Hermann
      • Alexander Flügel
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