Chemists pull non-reproducible paper on method to make opal films


When two chemists based in China couldn’t reproduce experiments in their paper on opal films, they retracted it.

As the retraction note explains:

In this article we report a method to fabricate 2D TiO2–WO3 composite inverse opal films via a mechanical co-assembly route with a template of polystyrene spheres. Upon repeating the experiments described, we found that this was not an effective method for forming the films; often the film was broken or did not form at all.

The note also explains why the experiment didn’t work:

We suggest that this may be due to the mechanical forces exerted by the rubber, which were inconsistent between experiments and predominantly acted in one direction only. Therefore we are no longer confident that the method and results reported in this article are reliable. We retract this article to avoid misleading readers and apologise for any inconvenience caused to New Journal of Chemistry and the readers.

Published in the New Journal of Chemistry, A surfactant-free co-assembly route to fabricate 2D TiO2–WO3 composite inverse opal films for photochromic applications” has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

We are always impressed with authors who recognize errors and deal with them in a proactive manner, so this paper belongs in our “doing the right thing” category. It also reminds us of another recent retraction, from a highly cited physics paper published in Nature; what the team thought was an interesting behavior of quantum dots was actually coming from a defect in the glass to which they had affixed the dots.

We have reached out to corresponding author Hongyu Zhen, who works at the Zhejiang University in China, and to the editor in chief of the journal, and the executive editor of the Royal Chemistry Society, which publishes the journal. We’ll update this post with anything else we learn.

Hat tip: Kerry Grens 

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