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Study of the photonic properties of diatoms

Team 1: Evolution of Biomineralizations and Adaptations to Environmental Constraints

MCHEIK Ali

Year of defence: 
2018
Abstract: 

The work presented in this thesis deals with the study of the photonic properties of four diatom species of the genus Coscinodiscus : C. wailesiiC. specieC. radiatus et C. radiatus-cf. Diatoms are unicellular microalgae consisting of a single cell encapsulated in an inorganic matrix of porous silica called frustule. We performed cultures of these species, then extracted the frustules to characterize them, both in terms of their composition and their morphology, by electron microscopy and X-ray tomography. The frustule consists of three silica layers (the foramen, cribrum and cribellum) with a hierarchical porous structure, ranging from micrometer to nanometer scale, and thus forming a complex three-dimensional matrix that may have photonic properties. The foramen and cribrum have periodic pores networks whose characteristic dimensions (pore size, lattice constant…) are of the order of light wavelengths. The optical properties of the frustules were then studied experimentally by spectral imaging and theoratically by numerical simulations by finite element method. We demonstrated a concentration effect of visible light transmitted on diatom’s axis a few tens of micrometers behind the frustule. This effect appears to depend on the incident wavelength as well as the orientation of the frustule. Finally, we have shown by theoratical approach and numerical simulations, that light concentration effect along the axis is mainly due to the foramen and the rest of layers have only a marginal effect. Such complex micro and nano-structuring of matter is currently impossible on an industrial scale. This structure, however, has optical effects of light concentration and filtration of great interest in many fields (photovoltaics, cosmetics, paint…) and it is therefore reasonnable to consider a direct use of diatoms.