Quantum Biology

Quantum Biology

Quantum Biology

We seek to understand how biological systems exploit quantum mechanical phenomena. For example, photosynthetic antenna complexes use coherent energy transfer to move energy with extreme efficiency despite a dynamic, disordered environment. We use femtosecond laser systems to probe energy transfer on ultrafast timescales in an attempt to unravel the design principles that nature uses.


  • We grow, isolate and modify many of our own biological samples while working with collaborators to obtain other samples.
  • By watching quantum beating signals in our ultrafast spectroscopy studies, we can see that quantum coherence persists far longer than expected (15fs at room temperature) and lasts long enough to affect biological function. Our experiments are designed to dissect this process and to test the wide array of theories about how this mechanism works.

G.D. Scholes, G.R. Fleming, L.X. Chen, A. Aspuru-Guzik, A. Buchleitner, D.F. Coker, G.S. Engel, R. van Grondelle, A. Ishizaki, D.M. Jonas, J.S. Lundeen, J.K. McCusker, S. Mukamel, J.P. Ogilvie, A. Olaya-Castro, M.A. Ratner, F.C. Spano, K.B. Whaley, and X.Y. Zhu, "Using coherence to enhance function in chemical and biophysical systems" Nature 543, 647–656 2017.

L. Wang, G.B. Griffin, A. Zhang, F. Zhai, N.E. Williams, R.F. Jordan, and G.S. Engel, "Controlling quantum-beating signals in 2D electronic spectra by packing synthetic heterodimers on single-walled carbon nanotubes" Nature Chemistry 9, 219–225 2017.

P.D. Dahlberg, G.J. Norris, C. Wang, S. Viswanathan, V.P. Singh, and G.S. Engel , "Communication: Coherences observed in vivo in photosynthetic bacteria using two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy" J. Chem. Phys. 143, 101101 2015.

V. P. Singh, M. Westberg, C. Wang, P. D. Dahlberg, T. Gellen, A. T. Gardiner, R. J. Cogdell, and G. S. Engel, "Towards quantification of vibronic coupling in photosynthetic antenna complexes" J. Chem. Phys. 142, 212446 2015.

M. Mohseni, Y. Omar, G.S. Engel, and M.B. Plenio, "Quantum Effects in Biology" Cambridge University Press, 2014.