The fascinating diatom frustule—can it play a role for attenuation of UV radiation?

Marianne Ellegaard, Torben Anker Lenau, Nina Lundholm, Christian Maibohm, Søren Michael Mørk Friis, Karsten Rottwitt, Yanyan Su

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Diatoms are ubiquitous organisms in aquatic environments and are estimated to be responsible for 20–25 % of the total global primary production. A unique feature of diatomsis the silica wall, called the frustule. The frustule is characterized by species-specific intricate nanopatterning in the same size range as wave lengths of visible and ultraviolet (UV) light. This has prompted research into the possible role of the frustule in mediating light for the diatoms’ photosynthesis as well as into possible photonic applications of the diatom frustule. One of the possible biological roles, as well as area of potential application, is UV protection. In this review, we explore the possible adaptive value of the silica frustule with focus on research on the effect of UV radiation ondiatoms. We also explore the possible effect of the frustules on UV radiation, from a theoretical, biological, and applied perspective, including recent experimental data on UV transmission of diatom frustules.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)3295–3306
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • UV protection
  • Photonics
  • Photobiology
  • Nanopatterning
  • diatoms


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