Quantum mechanics of excitation transport in photosynthetic complexes

For a long time microscopic physical descriptions of biological processes have been based on quantum mechanical concepts and tools, and routinely employed by chemical physicists and quantum chemists. However, the last ten years have witnessed new developments on these studies from a different perspective, rooted in the framework of quantum information theory. The process that more, than others, has been subject of intense research is the transfer of excitation energy in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes, a consequence of the unexpected experimental discovery of oscillating signals in such highly noisy systems. The fundamental interdisciplinary nature of this research makes it extremely fascinating, but can also constitute an obstacle to its advance. Here in this review our objective is to provide an essential summary of the progress made in the theoretical description of excitation energy dynamics in photosynthetic systems from a quantum mechanical perspective, with the goal of unifying the language employed by the different communities. This is initially realized through a stepwise presentation of the fundamental building blocks used to model excitation transfer, including protein dynamics and the theory of open quantum system. Afterwards, we shall review how these models have evolved as a consequence of experimental discoveries; this will lead us to present the numerical techniques that have been introduced to quantitatively describe photo-absorbed energy dynamics. Finally, we shall discuss which mechanisms have been proposed to explain the unusual coherent nature of excitation transport and what insights have been gathered so far on the potential functional role of such quantum features.

via Quantum mechanics of excitation transport in photosynthetic complexes: a key issues review – Abstract – Reports on Progress in Physics – IOPscience.

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