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J Chem Phys. 2012 Sep 28;137(12):125101.

Two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy of bacteriochlorophyll a in solution: Elucidating the coherence dynamics of the Fenna-Matthews-Olson complex using its chromophore as a control.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and The James Franck Institute, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Following the observation of long-lived coherences in the two-dimensional (2D) electronic spectra of the Fenna-Matthews-Olson (FMO) complex, many theoretical works suggest that coherences between excitons may play a role in the efficient energy transfer that occurs in photosynthetic antennae. This interpretation of the dynamics depends on the assignment of quantum beating signals to superpositions of excitons, which is complicated by the possibility of observing both electronic and vibrational coherences in 2D spectra. Here, we explore 2D spectra of bacteriochlorophyll a (BChla) in solution in an attempt to isolate vibrational beating signals in the absence of excitonic signals to identify the origin of the quantum beats in 2D spectra of FMO. Even at high laser power, our BChla spectra show strong beating only from the nonresonant response of the solvent. The beating signals that we can conclusively assign to vibrational modes of BChla are only slightly above the noise and at higher frequencies than those previously observed in spectra of FMO. Our results suggest that the beating observed in spectra of FMO is of a radically different character than the signals observed here and can therefore be attributed to electronic coherences or intermolecular degrees of freedom.

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