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Nature keeps a few secrets. While plenty of structures with low symmetry are found in nature, scientists have been confined to high-symmetry designs when synthesizing colloidal crystals, a valuable type of nanomaterial used for chemical and biological sensing and optoelectronic devices.

Now, research from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan has drawn back the curtain, showing for the first time how low-symmetry colloidal crystals can be made—including one phase for which there is no known natural equivalent.

"We've discovered something fundamental about the system for making ," said Northwestern's Chad A. Mirkin. "This strategy for breaking symmetry rewrites the rules for material design and synthesis."

The research was published today (Jan. 13) in the journal Nature Materials.

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