Biological Kerker Effect Boosts Light Collection Efficiency in Plants

Hani Barhom, Andrey A. Machnev, Roman E. Noskov*, Alexander Goncharenko, Egor A. Gurvitz, Alexander S. Timin, Vitaliy A. Shkoldin, Sergei V. Koniakhin, Olga Yu Koval, Mikhail V. Zyuzin, Alexander S. Shalin, Ivan I. Shishkin, Pavel Ginzburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Being the polymorphs of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), vaterite and calcite have attracted a great deal of attention as promising biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering applications. Furthermore, they are important biogenic minerals, enabling living organisms to reach specific functions. In nature, vaterite and calcite monocrystals typically form self-assembled polycrystal micro- and nanoparticles, also referred to as spherulites. Here, we demonstrate that alpine plants belonging to the Saxifraga genus can tailor light scattering channels and utilize multipole interference effect to improve light collection efficiency via producing CaCO3 polycrystal nanoparticles on the margins of their leaves. To provide a clear physical background behind this concept, we study optical properties of artificially synthesized vaterite nanospherulites and reveal the phenomenon of directional light scattering. Dark-field spectroscopy measurements are supported by a comprehensive numerical analysis, accounting for the complex microstructure of particles. We demonstrate the appearance of generalized Kerker condition, where several higher order multipoles interfere constructively in the forward direction, governing the interaction phenomenon. As a result, highly directive forward light scattering from vaterite nanospherulites is observed in the entire visible range. Furthermore, ex vivo studies of microstructure and optical properties of leaves for the alpine plants Saxifraga "Southside Seedling" and Saxifraga Paniculata Ria are performed and underline the importance of the Kerker effect for these living organisms. Our results pave the way for a bioinspired strategy of efficient light collection by self-assembled polycrystal CaCO3 nanoparticles via tailoring light propagation directly to the photosynthetic tissue with minimal losses to undesired scattering channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7062-7071
Number of pages10
JournalNano Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - 9 Oct 2019


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme802279
Tomsk Polytechnic UniversityANR-16-CE30-0021, 16.9790.2019
European Research Council
Russian Science Foundation19-73-30023
PAZY Foundation01021248
Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation


    • Biophotonics
    • autofluorescence
    • calcite
    • plant photonics
    • polycrystalline biomineral spherulite
    • vaterite


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