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Nature-inspired laser system uncovers cellular secret


A team of scientists has used laser to replicate vortical flows found in biological and meteorological systems such as algae or hurricanes (Image: Pexels/Guilherme Christmann)

A new system has been developed that uses lasers to replicate the movement of natural phenomena, which could reveal ways to reproduce living matter on a cellular scale.

As detailed in a Nature Communications paper, a team of scientists replicated vortical flows found in biological and meteorological systems such as algae or hurricanes, where particles move into orbital motion generated by their own rotation. 

To replicate this at a basic level, the team created tiny micro-rotors – about 1/10th the width of a human hair – to move micro-particles using a laser beam. 

“Living organisms are made of materials that actively pump energy through their molecules, which produce a range of movements on a larger cellular scale,” said Matan Yah Ben Zion, one of the paper’s authors. “By engineering cellular-scale machines from the ground up, our work can offer new insights into the complexity of the natural world.”  

Ai pic

AI impression of orbiting particle spun by a rotating light beam. (Image: Matan Yah Ben Zion)

The researchers found that the rotating particles mutually affected each other into orbital motion, with strong similarities to dynamics observed by other scientists in “dancing” algae – algae groupings that move in concert with each other. 

The team also found that the spins of the particles reciprocate as the particles orbit. 

“The spins of the synthetic particles reciprocate in the same fashion as that observed in algae –in contrast to previous work with artificial micro-rotors,” said Ben Zion. “So we were able to reproduce synthetically – and on the micron scale – an effect that is seen in living systems.”

“Collectively, these findings suggest that the dance of algae can be reproduced in a synthetic system, better establishing our understanding of living matter,” Zion added.


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