Anderson light localization in biological nanostructures of native silk

Seung Ho Choi, Seong Wan Kim, Zahyun Ku, Michelle A. Visbal-Onufrak, Seong Ryul Kim, Kwang Ho Choi, Hakseok Ko, Wonshik Choi, Augustine M. Urbas, Tae Won Goo, Young L. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


Light in biological media is known as freely diffusing because interference is negligible. Here, we show Anderson light localization in quasi-two-dimensional protein nanostructures produced by silkworms (Bombyx mori). For transmission channels in native silk, the light flux is governed by a few localized modes. Relative spatial fluctuations in transmission quantities are proximal to the Anderson regime. The sizes of passive cavities (smaller than a single fibre) and the statistics of modes (decomposed from excitation at the gain-loss equilibrium) differentiate silk from other diffusive structures sharing microscopic morphological similarity. Because the strong reflectivity from Anderson localization is combined with the high emissivity of the biomolecules in infra-red radiation, silk radiates heat more than it absorbs for passive cooling. This collective evidence explains how a silkworm designs a nanoarchitectured optical window of resonant tunnelling in the physically closed structures, while suppressing most of transmission in the visible spectrum and emitting thermal radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number452
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge Vladimir Shalaev, Hui Cao and Johannes de Boer for their insightful commentary; Chia-Ping Huang, Robert Seiler, Christopher Gilpin and Bradley Thiel for electron microscopy of silk fibres. This work was supported by Cooperative Research Program for Agriculture Science & Technology Development (PJ012089) from Rural Development Administration, Republic of Korea and Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (FA2386-16-1-4114 and FA2386-17-1-4072) from U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, USA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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