Quantum biology is a new swiftly growing scientific synthesis merging quantum information science with the richness and complexity of biological systems. Recent theoretical and experimental evidence supports the early intuition of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics that biological systyems should be influenced by the intricacies of quantum physics. Currently, quantum biology is explored mainly along three fronts: photosynthesis, magnetoreception and olfaction. Quantum biology is not about the “static”, atomistic aspect of biological structure but about dynamic effects related to quantum coherence and entanglement influencing biological function. Quantum biology is a uniquely interdisciplinary field combining quantum science, physical chemistry, biochemistry and biology.
We were one among the few groups that pioneered the field of quantum biology. We introduced the study of the fundamental quantum dynamics of the radical-pair mechanism. Radical-ion-pair reactions are spin-dependent biochemical reactions relevant to photosynthesis and the avian magnetic compass. The radical-pair mechanism, the cornerstone of the field of spin chemistry, was known since the 60’s. Our group was the first to unravel the rich quantum-information science behind this biological mechanism, showing that concepts like quantum measurements, the quantum Zeno effect, measures of quantum coherence and even the quantum-communications concept of quantum retrodiction are necessary to understand the underlying quantum dynamics of radical-pairs.
We currently pursue our theoretical research along the two major fronts of quantum biology, the radical-pair mechanism and photosynthesis. We believe that there is a whole lot more to discover in the quantum dynamics relevant to these two themes, especially in the albeit difficult to establish connection between microscopic quantum dynamics and macroscopic biological observations. Questions like the fundamental quantum limits to the avian compass mechanism and the charge and energy transport efficiency in photosynthesis are central for our work. Whether real biological systems actually achieve those limits and if not, how to design and build artificial systems that do also forms a major avenue of current and future research in our group, a direction that we term quantum bio-engineering.