Proteins That Can Take the Heat

Ancient proteins may offer clues on how to engineer proteins that can withstand the high temperatures required in industrial applications, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Built From the Bottom Up, Nanoribbons Pave the Way to 'on-Off' States for Graphene

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and North Carolina State University report in the journal Nature Communications that they are the first to grow graphene nanoribbons without a metal substrate.

LLNL Reinventing Metal 3D Printing with Direct Metal Writing Process

Metal 3D printing has enormous potential to revolutionize modern manufacturing. However, the most popular metal printing processes, which use lasers to fuse together fine metal powder, have their limitations. Parts produced using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and other powder-based metal techniques often end up with gaps or defects caused by a variety of factors. To overcome those drawbacks, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers, along with collaborators at Worchester Polytechnic Institute, are taking a wholly new approach to metal 3D printing with a process they're calling Direct Metal Writing, in which semisolid metal is directly extruded from a nozzle, like ketchup from a bottle.

The Economic Case for Wind and Solar Energy in Africa

To meet skyrocketing demand for electricity, African countries may have to triple their energy output by 2030. While hydropower and fossil fuel power plants are favored approaches in some quarters, a new assessment by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that wind and solar can be economically and environmentally competitive options and can contribute significantly to the rising demand.

Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Argonne Scientist and Nobel Laureate Alexei Abrikosov Dies at 88

Alexei Abrikosov, an acclaimed physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on superconducting materials, died Wednesday, March 29. He was 88.

Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.

Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

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Technique Unlocks Design Principles of Quantum Biology

Article ID: 601967

Released: 2013-04-19 10:45:00

Source Newsroom: University of Chicago

  • Credit: Graham Griffith

    University of Chicago researchers have created a synthetic compound that mimics the complex quantum dynamics observed in photosynthesis. The compound may enable fundamentally new routes to creative solar light harvesting technologies.

  • Credit: Tom Jarvis

    University of Chicago researchers have created synthetic molecules that support-long-lived quantum coherence at room temperature. Pictured (l-r) are postdoctoral scholar Graham Griffin, Prof. Greg Engel and graduate student Dugan Hayes.

Steve Koppes



Ultrafast technique unlocks design principles of quantum biology

University of Chicago researchers have created a synthetic compound that mimics the complex quantum dynamics observed in photosynthesis and may enable fundamentally new routes to creating solar-energy technologies. Engineering quantum effects into synthetic light-harvesting devices is not only possible, but also easier than anyone expected, the researchers report in the April 19 edition of Science.

The researchers have engineered small molecules that support long-lived quantum coherences. Coherences are the macroscopically observable behavior of quantum superpositions. Superpositions are a fundamental quantum mechanical concept, exemplified by the classic Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment, in which a single quantum particle such as an electron occupies more than one state simultaneously.

Quantum effects are generally negligible in large, hot, disordered systems. Nevertheless, the recent ultrafast spectroscopy experiments in UChicago chemistry Prof. Greg Engel’s laboratory have shown that quantum superpositions may play a role in the near perfect quantum efficiency of photosynthetic light harvesting, even at physiological temperatures.

Photosynthetic antennae – the proteins that organize chlorophylls and other light-absorbing molecules in plants and bacteria – support superpositions that survive for anomalously long times. Many researchers have proposed that organisms have evolved a means of protecting these superpositions. The result: improved efficiency in transferring energy from absorbed sunlight to the parts of the cell that convert solar energy to chemical energy. The newly reported results demonstrate that this aspect of quantum mechanics can be engineered into man-made compounds.

The researchers modified fluorescein – the same molecule once used to dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day – and then linked different pairs of these dyes together using a rigid bridging structure. The resulting molecules were able to recreate the important properties of chlorophyll molecules in photosynthetic systems that cause coherences to persist for tens of femtoseconds at room temperature.

“That may not sound like a very long time - a femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second,” said study co-author Dugan Hayes, a UChicago graduate student in chemistry. “But the movement of excitations through these systems also occurs on this ultrafast timescale, meaning that these quantum superpositions can play an important role in energy transfer.”

To detect evidence of long-lived superpositions, the researchers created a movie of energy flow in the molecules using highly engineered laboratories and state-of-the-art femtosecond laser systems. Three precisely controlled laser pulses are directed into the sample, causing it to emit an optical signal that is captured and directed into a camera.

By scanning the time delays between the arriving laser pulses, the researchers create a movie of energy flow in the system, encoded as a series two-dimensional spectra. Each two-dimensional spectrum is a single frame of the movie, and contains information about where energy resides in the system and what pathways it has followed to get there.

These movies show relaxation from high energy states toward lower energy states as time proceeds, as well as oscillating signals in very specific regions of the signal, or quantum beats. “Quantum beats are the signature of quantum coherence, arising from the interference between the different energetic states in the superposition, similar to the beating heard when two instruments that are slightly out of tune with each other try to play the same note,” Hayes explained.

Computer simulations have shown that quantum coherences work in photosynthetic antennae to prevent excitations from getting trapped on their way to the reaction center, where the conversion to chemical energy begins. In one interpretation, as the excitation moves through the antenna, it remains in a superposition of all possible paths at once, making it inevitable that it proceeds down the proper path. “Until these coherences were observed in synthetic systems, it remained dubious that such a complex phenomenon could be recreated outside of nature,” Hayes said.