Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quantum biology?!?

The role of quantum dynamics in biomolecular function is of great interest to me. Unfortunately, there are some highly speculative ideas and claims being made on this topic.

I had a student, Joel Gilmore, complete a Ph.D thesis on this topic. Some of our results are published in a review article we recently published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. (My first paper in that journal!) We were able to actually quantify the effect of the environment on quantum dynamics of excited states in optically active biomolecules. This included finding the timescale relevant to the "collapse" of the wavefunction!

I also organised an Exploratory Workshop on this topic for I2CAM.

In my view, some of the key questions in this field are:

When is quantum dynamics (e.g., tunneling, coherence, and entanglement) necessary for functionality?

Do biomolecules exploit dynamics to enhance functionality?

What are the model molecular systems that should be the focus of concerted theoretical and experimental study?

What are the principles for developing nanotechnologies that can be learned from mimicking biomolecular nanoscale devices?

More posts on this topic will be forthcoming.

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