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Nature. 2010 Feb 4;463(7281):644-7. doi: 10.1038/nature08811.

Coherently wired light-harvesting in photosynthetic marine algae at ambient temperature.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Institute for Optical Sciences and Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control, University of Toronto, 80 St George Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3H6 Canada.


Photosynthesis makes use of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into useful biomass and is vital for life on Earth. Crucial components for the photosynthetic process are antenna proteins, which absorb light and transmit the resultant excitation energy between molecules to a reaction centre. The efficiency of these electronic energy transfers has inspired much work on antenna proteins isolated from photosynthetic organisms to uncover the basic mechanisms at play. Intriguingly, recent work has documented that light-absorbing molecules in some photosynthetic proteins capture and transfer energy according to quantum-mechanical probability laws instead of classical laws at temperatures up to 180 K. This contrasts with the long-held view that long-range quantum coherence between molecules cannot be sustained in complex biological systems, even at low temperatures. Here we present two-dimensional photon echo spectroscopy measurements on two evolutionarily related light-harvesting proteins isolated from marine cryptophyte algae, which reveal exceptionally long-lasting excitation oscillations with distinct correlations and anti-correlations even at ambient temperature. These observations provide compelling evidence for quantum-coherent sharing of electronic excitation across the 5-nm-wide proteins under biologically relevant conditions, suggesting that distant molecules within the photosynthetic proteins are 'wired' together by quantum coherence for more efficient light-harvesting in cryptophyte marine algae.

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