Blue light make these crystals to behave like a living being

A sort living particles

Scientists have developed the so-called “living crystals”.

This research has been published online in the journal Science.

Although the material particles are not alive in the true sense but they are close to the life.

“There is a blurry frontier between active and alive,” Biophysicist Jérémie Palacci of New York University (NYU), said to the Wired.

According to Paul Chaikin, NYU physics professor, these crystals, which are made up of hematite colloids made up of iron and oxygen, have 2 out of 3 characteristics of life i.e. metabolism and mobility. The third characteristic, self-replication, is absent. These particles constantly, upon exposure to blue light, group together, split and return to one another while the particles move away from each other when the light is moved away.

“Here we show that with a simple, synthetic active system, we can reproduce some features of living systems,” Palacci said. “I do not think this makes our systems alive, but it stresses the fact that the limit between the two is somewhat arbitrary.”

Scientists have developed this material to understand the flocking behavior of birds, bacteria and other living organisms. This same mechanism can also help to develop materials having the ability of molecular self-assembly.


Jeremie Palacci, Stefano Sacanna, Asher Preska Steinberg, David J. Pine, Paul M. Chaikin, (2013). Living Crystals of Light-Activated Colloidal Surfers. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1230020

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