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. We unraveled 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.
Most recently, we introduced the tools of quantum metrology to estimate the fundamental magnetic sensitivity of this kind of biochemical magnetometers.
Our current focus
We currently wish to explore the ramifications of the master equation we developed for understanding spin transport in photosynthetic reaction centers (RCs).
It turns out that the relevant spin relaxation times are much longer than the intrinsic S-T decoherence captured by our master equation, hence we expect significant departures in the understanding this transport compared to the earlier description by Haberkorn’s theory.
In particular there is a large class of experiments on CIDNP (chemically induced dynamic nuclear polarization) that use the enhanced NMR signals produced by the radical-pair spin transport in RCs to study the complex electronic structure of RCs. To access the sought after physical parameters one must deconvolve the radical-pair dynamics from the data. Doing so with the traditional approach can lead to order-of-magnitude deviations from the actual values of the physics parameters.