Uncovering quantum secret in photosynthesis

Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 13:00 in Physics & Chemistry

The efficient conversion of sunlight into useful energy is one of the challenges which stand in the way of meeting the world's increasing energy demand in a clean, sustainable way without relying on fossil fuels. Photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and some bacteria, have mastered this process: In less than a couple of trillionths of a second, 95 percent of the sunlight they absorb is whisked away to drive the metabolic reactions that provide them with energy. The efficiency of photovoltaic cells currently on the market is around 20 percent. What hidden mechanism does nature use to transfer energy so efficiently? Various research groups around the world have shown that this highly efficient energy transport is connected to a quantum-mechanical phenomenon. However, until now, no one had directly observed the possible impacts of such a quantum transport mechanism at work at room temperature.

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