Quantum entanglement in photosynthesis and evolution

Jul 21, 2010

Recently, academic debate has been swirling around the existence of unusual quantum mechanical effects in the most ubiquitous of phenomena, including photosynthesis, the process by which organisms convert light into chemical energy.

In particular, physicists have suggested that entanglement (the quantum interconnection of two or more objects like photons, electrons, or atoms that are separated in physical space) could be occurring in the photosynthetic complexes of plants, particularly in the pigment molecules, or chromophores. The quantum effects may explain why the structures are so efficient at converting light into energy -- doing so at 95 percent or more.

In a paper in The , which is published by the American Institute of Physics, these ideas are put to the test in a novel computer simulation of energy transport in a photosynthetic reaction center. Using the simulation, professor Shaul Mukamel and senior research associate Darius Abramavicius at the University of California, Irvine show that long-lived quantum coherence is an "essential ingredient for storage and manipulation," according to Mukamel. It is possible between chromophores even at room temperature, he says, and it "can strongly affect the light-harvesting efficiency."

If the existence of such effects can be substantiated experimentally, he says, this understanding of quantum energy transfer and charge separation pathways may help the design of that take their inspiration from nature.

Explore further: Step lightly: All-optical transistor triggered by single photon promises advances in quantum applications

More information: The article, "Quantum oscillatory exciton migration in photosynthetic reaction centers" by Darius Abramavicius and Shaul Mukamel will appear in The Journal of Chemical Physics. See: jcp.aip.org/

Provided by American Institute of Physics

4.7 /5 (12 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discovery brings organic solar cells a step closer

Jan 15, 2009

Inexpensive solar cells, vastly improved medical imaging techniques and lighter and more flexible television screens are among the potential applications envisioned for organic electronics.

Physicist proposes method to teleport energy

Feb 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using the same quantum principles that enable the teleportation of information, a new proposal shows how it may be possible to teleport energy. By exploiting the quantum energy fluctuations ...

Quantum electronics: Two photons and chips

Jan 20, 2006

Scientists at Toshiba Research Europe Limited (Cambridge, UK) believe they are on to a way of producing entangled twins of photons using a simple semiconductor electronic device. Such a chip-based source of entangled photons ...

Recommended for you

Breakthrough in light sources for new quantum technology

Aug 29, 2014

One of the most promising technologies for future quantum circuits are photonic circuits, i.e. circuits based on light (photons) instead of electrons (electronic circuits). First, it is necessary to create ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jigga
3 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2010
Solar energy is converted into chemical energy more efficiently (by about 7%) thanks to quantum coherence. The pigment array in thylakoid lamellas
i.e. quantasomes appear pretty similar to quantum dots arrays. Each quantasome contains about 230 to 300 chlorophyll molecules. They're regularly spaced in 150 x 180 A lattice, like quantum vortices within superconductors (Abrikosov lattice). All the molecules in each of these photo-synthetic units are spaced and oriented in such a way, captured photons are transferred from molecule to molecule by inductive resonance and the energy absorbed is transferred to as exciton.

Experiments have demonstrated, that the presence of the quantasome particles in chloroplast membrane is not a necessary condition for photoreduction activity of chloroplasts [J. Mol. Biol., 27, 323 (1967)] In prokaryota pigments are distributed uniformly on or in the thylakoid lamellae.