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Photosynthesis is a highly optimized process from which valuable lessons can be learned about the operating principles in nature. Its primary steps involve energy transport operating near theoretical quantum limits in efficiency. Recently, extensive research was motivated by the hypothesis that nature used quantum coherences to direct energy transfer. This body of work, a cornerstone for the field of quantum biology, rests on the interpretation of small-amplitude oscillations in two-dimensional electronic spectra of photosynthetic complexes. This Review discusses recent work reexamining these claims and demonstrates that inter-exciton coherences are too short lived to have any functional significance in photosynthetic energy transfer. Instead, the observed long-lived coherences originate from impulsively excited vibrations, generally observed in femtosecond spectroscopy. These efforts, collectively, lead to a more detailed understanding of the quantum aspects of dissipation. Nature, rather than trying to avoid dissipation, exploits it via engineering of exciton-bath interaction to create efficient energy flow.
Redox conditions correlated with vibronic coupling modulate quantum beats in photosynthetic pigment–protein complexesQuantum coherences, observed as time-dependent beats in ultrafast spectroscopic experiments, arise when light–matter interactions prepare systems in superpositions of states with differing energy and fixed phase across the ensemble. Such coherences have been observed in photosynthetic systems following ultrafast laser excitation, but what these coherences imply about the underlying energy transfer dynamics remains subject to debate. Recent work showed that redox conditions tune vibronic coupling in the Fenna–Matthews–Olson (FMO) pigment–protein complex in green sulfur bacteria, raising the question of whether redox conditions may also affect the long-lived (>100 fs) quantum coherences observed in this complex. In this work, we perform ultrafast two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy measurements on the FMO complex under both oxidizing and reducing conditions. We observe that many excited-state coherences are exclusively present in reducing conditions and are absent or attenuated in oxidizing conditions. Reducing conditions mimic the natural conditions of the complex more closely. Further, the presence of these coherences correlates with the vibronic coupling that produces faster, more efficient energy transfer through the complex under reducing conditions. The growth of coherences across the waiting time and the number of beating frequencies across hundreds of wavenumbers in the power spectra suggest that the beats are excited-state coherences withmore »
Vibronic coupling between pigment molecules is believed to prolong coherences in photosynthetic pigment–protein complexes. Reproducing long-lived coherences using vibronically coupled chromophores in synthetic DNA constructs presents a biomimetic route to efficient artificial light harvesting. Here, we present two-dimensional (2D) electronic spectra of one monomeric Cy5 construct and two dimeric Cy5 constructs (0 bp and 1 bp between dyes) on a DNA scaffold and perform beating frequency analysis to interpret observed coherences. Power spectra of quantum beating signals of the dimers reveal high frequency oscillations that correspond to coherences between vibronic exciton states. Beating frequency maps confirm that these oscillations, 1270 cm −1 and 1545 cm −1 for the 0-bp dimer and 1100 cm −1 for the 1-bp dimer, are coherences between vibronic exciton states and that these coherences persist for ∼300 fs. Our observations are well described by a vibronic exciton model, which predicts the excitonic coupling strength in the dimers and the resulting molecular exciton states. The energy spacing between those states closely corresponds to the observed beat frequencies. MD simulations indicate that the dyes in our constructs lie largely internal to the DNA base stacking region, similar to the native design of biological light harvesting complexes. Observed coherencesmore »
Variety, the spice of life and essential for robustness in excitation energy transfer in light-harvesting complexesFor over a decade there has been some significant excitement and speculation that quantum effects may be important in the excitation energy transport process in the light harvesting complexes of certain bacteria and algae, in particular via the Fenna–Matthews–Olsen (FMO) complex. Whilst the excitement may have waned somewhat with the realisation that the observed long-lived oscillations in two-dimensional electronic spectra of FMO are probably due to vibronic coherences, it remains a question whether these coherences may play any important role. We review our recent work showing how important the site-to-site variation in coupling between chloroplasts in FMO and their protein scaffold environment is for energy transport in FMO and investigate the role of vibronic modes in this transport. Whilst the effects of vibronic excitations seem modest for FMO, we show that for bilin-based pigment–protein complexes of marine algae, in particular PC645, the site-dependent vibronic excitations seem essential for robust excitation energy transport, which may again open the door for important quantum effects to be important in these photosynthetic complexes.
Coherence delocalization has been investigated on a coupled‐cavity molecular polariton platform in time, frequency, and spatial domains, enabled by ultrafast two‐dimensional infrared hyperspectral imaging. Unidirectional coherence delocalization (coherence prepared in one cavity transferred to another cavity) has been observed in frequency and real space. This directionality is enabled by the dissipation of delocalized photon from high‐energy to low‐energy modes, described by Lindblad dynamics. Further experiments show that when coherences are directly prepared between polaritons from different cavities, only energetically nearby polaritons can form coherences that survive the long‐range environmental fluctuation. Together with the Lindblad dynamics, this result implies that coherences delocalize through a one‐step mechanism where photons transfer from one cavity to another, shedding light to coherence evolution in natural and artificial quantum systems. This new optical platform based on molecular vibrational polariton thus demonstrates a way of combining photon and molecular modes to simulate coherence dynamics in the infrared regime.