My PhD thesis which I recently submitted in November 2014 is entitled "Quantum effects in photosynthesis" and deals with those processes occurring in photosynthetic organisms where quantum mechanics plays a role. We are investigating the very early stages of photosynthesis- up to the first one millionth of a second!- where sunlight is converted into the charge-separated states necessary for ATP production and the rest of photosynthesis to take place. Surprisingly, these very early processes are nearly 100% efficient- almost no photons or electrons are lost. We are trying to understand how Nature does it so well.
Research in the new field of quantum biology promises to contribute to the development of the kind of renewable energy technologies essential for our continued existence on this planet, and perhaps others!, as well as raising fascinating questions about the origins and nature of life itself.
We have also been investigating the potential relation between magnetic field effects and mechanisms of protection against harmful free-radicals in photosynthesis. This research may have important implications for living organisms in general, with the same free radicals being associated with aging and disease.
A more recent interest is whether quantum effects (which have been identified in bacterial photosynthesis, one of life’s most primitive processes) may also have played a role in the emergence of prebiotic molecules- or even possibly early life forms- from the inanimate matter of which they are constituted.
I am grateful to my supervisors Dr Ilya Sinayskiy and Prof. Francesco Petruccione for all their time, support and encouragement over the years!