PerspectiveMaterials Science

Complexity from Simplicity

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Science  17 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6134, pp. 822-823
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238619

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By studying natural shapes and processes, researchers have learned that the key ingredient to arriving at complexity is the coupling between different processes. This coupling leads to self-organization and is an essential feature of life (1). In biominerals, such as diatom skeletons or abalone shells, the interplay between calcium carbonate or similar minerals with organic molecules can lead to highly functional materials with hierarchical architectures and stunning beauty (2). On page 832 of this issue, Noorduin et al. (3) bring the man-made design of complex shapes from simple ingredients to a level of control that promises applications in fields such as optics and catalysis.