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Shared vibrations: How photosynthetic light harvesting approaches 100% efficiency

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • Duane Physics Room G1B20

Speaker Name(s): 

David Jonas

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

University of Colorado, Boulder
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Physics Department Colloquium

Event Details & Abstract: 

Almost all life on earth depends on photosynthesis, and almost all the power our civilization uses has been stored as fuel by photosynthesis.  In photosynthesis, light is harvested by antenna proteins that can transfer the photon’s energy to a reaction center with near unit quantum efficiency.  The remarkable efficiency of these energy transfer processes has been a mystery for over 60 years and we cannot replicate it artificially.  Recent femtosecond two-dimensional (2D) spectroscopy experiments on antenna proteins found signatures initially attributed to electronic coherence that have sparked discussion about the role of quantum mechanics in biology; it is puzzling that these signatures persist for longer than the apparent energy transfer timescale.   We have recently shown that intramolecular vibrations shared across pigments can drive electronic energy transfer outside the Born-Oppenheimer picture of fast electrons and slow vibrations.  Such shared vibrations on the ground electronic state of the antenna generate all of the observed 2D signatures and their properties reveal the design principle for the antenna.  There are indications that this new mechanism may be operative in a variety of antenna proteins using 5 different photosynthetic pigments that are responsible for over half of the light harvesting on our planet.