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The toughness of Sporopollenin, a polymer within the shells of pollen grains (seen here magnified 500X using a scanning electron microscope), has made it possible for plant life to survive on land — but has also frustrated attempts to study its fundamental composition, until now.

Cracking a tough case

Whitehead Institute and MIT researchers uncover the detailed molecular structure of the sporopollenin polymer, an inert material key for the emergence of land plants.

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