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Volume 617 Issue 7962, 25 May 2023

Bending the rules

Flexible solar cells have great potential for photovoltaics integrated into buildings or in wearable electronics. But silicon-based solar cells tend to be too brittle to offer sufficient flexibility. In this week’s issue, Wenzhu Liu and colleagues present a way to make foldable silicon wafers that can be used in flexible solar cells. The secret to success was to blunt the edges of the silicon wafers, thereby stopping them from undergoing brittle fracturing. As a result, the researchers were able to make 15-centimetre solar cells with a bending angle of more than 360°. The team suggests that this process could be used in the large-scale manufacture of flexible cells that could have a wide range of uses, such as powering street lights as shown in the artist’s impression on the cover.

Cover image: Wenzhu Liu/Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology; Yangkai Chen/Suzhou Yangu Information Technology Company

This Week

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News in Focus

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Books & Arts

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  • News & Views

    • Inorganic phosphate is an essential mineral for cellular metabolism and signalling. It emerges that a fruit-fly organelle can store this chemical in the form of phospholipids, releasing it in times of need.

      • Emily Strachan
      • Irene Miguel-Aliaga
      News & Views
    • A long-sought photon that is emitted by the nucleus of a thorium isotope has now been observed. The feat is a key step in efforts to build a nuclear clock, a device that is precise enough to probe the Universe’s best-kept secrets.

      • Adriana Pálffy
      News & Views
    • The processing of messenger RNA during splicing requires the activity of a complex of RNAs and proteins termed the spliceosome. Structural data shed light on previously mysterious aspects of splicing in humans.

      • Soo-Chen Cheng
      News & Views
    • A limit on the resolution of optical-microscopy techniques has been broken by using a mixture of tags to label copies of target molecules in a sample, opening the way to better views of molecular organization in cells.

      • Alistair Curd
      News & Views
    • In the earliest stages of mammalian development, individual cells possess the unrestricted potential to form a new organism. Researchers are closing in on the goal of growing these cells in the laboratory.

      • Martin F. Pera
      News & Views
    • Muscle loss during chronic disease is a life-threatening condition for which there is no effective treatment. The identification of an underlying molecular mechanism might offer new therapeutic targets.

      • Laura Antonio-Herrera
      • Andreas Bergthaler
      News & Views
  • Perspective

    • An analysis of chemical processes to immobilize lead from perovskite solar cells is presented, highlighting the need for a standard lead-leakage test and mathematical model to reliably evaluate the potential environmental risk of perovskite optoelectronics.

      • Hui Zhang
      • Jin-Wook Lee
      • Nam-Gyu Park
  • Articles

    • The authors report on a temperate Earth-sized planet orbiting the cool M6 dwarf LP 791-18 with a radius of 1.03 ± 0.04 R and an equilibrium temperature of 300–400 K, with the permanent night side plausibly allowing for water condensation.

      • Merrin S. Peterson
      • Björn Benneke
      • Thomas Barclay
    • The authors report on the radiative decay of a low-energy isomer in thorium-229 (229mTh), which has consequences for the design of a future nuclear clock and eases the search for direct laser excitation of the atomic nucleus.

      • Sandro Kraemer
      • Janni Moens
      • Ulrich Wahl
    • The authors introduce a single-molecule DNA-barcoding method, resolution enhancement by sequential imaging, that improves the resolution of fluorescence microscopy down to the Ångström scale using off-the-shelf fluorescence microscopy hardware and reagents.

      • Susanne C. M. Reinhardt
      • Luciano A. Masullo
      • Ralf Jungmann
      Article Open Access
    • The authors report a transition-metal-catalysed protocol for recovery of polymer building block bisphenol  A and intact fibres from epoxy composites, demonstrating that chemical recycling approaches for thermoset epoxy resins and composites are achievable.

      • Alexander Ahrens
      • Andreas Bonde
      • Troels Skrydstrup
      Article Open Access
    • By combining geophysical and geodetic constraints for different models of the internal structure of the Moon, evidence is provided supporting the lunar mantle overturn scenario and the existence of a solid inner core.

      • Arthur Briaud
      • Clément Ganino
      • Nicolas Rambaux
    • After 600 rounds of selection, anaerobic snowflake yeast evolved to be macroscopic, becoming around 20,000 times larger (approximately mm scale) and about 10,000-fold more biophysically tough, while retaining a clonal multicellular life cycle.

      • G. Ozan Bozdag
      • Seyed Alireza Zamani-Dahaj
      • William C. Ratcliff
    • An analysis of models of human populations in Africa, using some newly sequenced genomes, finds that human origins in the continent can best be described by a weakly structured stem model.

      • Aaron P. Ragsdale
      • Timothy D. Weaver
      • Simon Gravel
      Article Open Access
    • An analysis of 24,202 critical cases of COVID-19 identifies potentially druggable targets in inflammatory signalling (JAK1), monocyte–macrophage activation and endothelial permeability (PDE4A), immunometabolism (SLC2A5 and AK5), and host factors required for viral entry and replication (TMPRSS2 and RAB2A).

      • Erola Pairo-Castineira
      • Konrad Rawlik
      • J. Kenneth Baillie
      Article Open Access
    • Complementary single-cell and single-nucleus transcriptomic analyses of Zea mays, Sorghum bicolor and Setaria viridis root cells provide insights into the evolution of cell types and gene modules that control key traits in these important crop species.

      • Bruno Guillotin
      • Ramin Rahni
      • Kenneth D. Birnbaum
    • Glioblastoma stem cells co-opt lysine uptake and degradation to shunt the production of crotonyl-CoA, remodelling the chromatin landscape to evade interferon-induced intrinsic effects on glioblastoma stem cell maintenance and extrinsic effects on immune response.

      • Huairui Yuan
      • Xujia Wu
      • Jeremy N. Rich
    • Gene expression analysis in muscle tissues showed upregulation of ectodysplasin A2 receptor in tumour-bearing mice and patients with cachectic cancer, and thus therapeutic targeting of relevant pathways may be beneficial in prevention of muscle loss.

      • Sevval Nur Bilgic
      • Aylin Domaniku
      • Serkan Kir
    • Systematic alteration of HIV-1 TAR RNA and quantitative determination of its propensity to bind to the Tat protein establish a key role role for a rare and short-lived RNA state in Tat-dependent transactivation in cells.

      • Megan L. Ken
      • Rohit Roy
      • Hashim M. Al-Hashimi
    • Cryogenic electron microscopy images of a spliceosome complex undergoing catalytic activation provide mechanistic insight into how the two ATP-dependent RNA helicases involved in this process, PRP2 and Aquarius, work together.

      • Jana Schmitzová
      • Constantin Cretu
      • Vladimir Pena
      Article Open Access
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  • From smartphones to supercomputers, modern computers work by manipulating digital 1s and 0s.

  • Academic research constantly creates and disperses seeds of scientific insight.

    Nature Outlook
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