Curated by RSF Research Staff
A nanophotonic structure used to entangle photosynthetic bacteria
An interesting turn of events in the past decade is the indication that the living system may be able to shed light on the quantumness of matter under different conditions and at different scales—an important step towards a fully agreed upon unification of the two regimes of physics. Living organisms and their associated biomolecules are an extremely unique state of matter, and therefore offer a unique opportunity to study quantum mechanical behavior in large multi-particle systems in the field of quantum biology.
Already, quantum behavior within the biological system has been observed in photosynthesis, electron transport, enzyme kinetics, magnetoreception, and in large macromolecules like microtubules. Additionally, novel quantum behavior has been observed such as the stabilization of quantum coherence---via quantum zeno dynamics---in the important laboratory biomolecule green fluorescent protein (isolated from bioluminescent organisms like jellyfish). The special arrangement of matter comprising fluorescent proteins protects quantum states within them from decoherence (entanglement with the environment).
In a significant “step-up” from large bio-macromolecular systems, researchers from the University of Oxford have surprised the scientific community with the announcement of successful entanglement of entire bacteria organisms with photons. The study published in the Journal of Physics Communications and led by quantum physicist Chiara Marletto involved the sequestration of hundreds of photosynthetic green sulfur bacteria between two mirrors separated by a few hundred nanometers. Similar to the methodology employed in light amplified stimulated emission (LASER) technology, the research team fed white photons into the optical cavity, causing the photons to bounce between the two mirrors. By causing the bacteria within to continuously absorb, emit and reabsorb the bouncing photons the entire photosynthetic machinery of the organisms become strongly coupled with the photonic microcavity, such that the bacteria are veritably entangled.
Indeed, the researchers explain that the energy signature of the photons interacting with the bacteria’s photosynthetic systems indicate that there is strong entanglement occurring between the bacteria and the optical cavity. Tristian Farrow, a physicist at Oxford University who reviewed the work commented that “It certainly is key to demonstrating that we are some way toward the idea of a ‘Schrödinger’s bacterium,’ if you will,”.
Subsequent experimentation will attempt to place the multicellular organism the tardigrade into a quantum state. The tardigrade is several hundred times larger than the bacteria used in previous entanglement experiments, and indications of a quantum state in such an organism would be the largest amount of “stuff” ever shown to be quantum entangled. Farrow says. “This is about understanding the nature of reality, and whether quantum effects have a utility in biological functions. At the root of things, everything is quantum”. And it is undoubted that after 3.8 billion years of evolution (or even 8 billion + years if you consider possibilities of panspermia) that the ingenuity of the living system has enabled life to utilize the intrinsic properties of matter that we characterize as “quantum”, ever refining the living system’s adaptability and ability to grow and thrive.
By: William Brown, Biophysicist with the Resonance Science Foundation
Original Report: A Nanophotonic Structure Containing Living Photosynthetic Bacteria
June 27, 2017. In addition to potential implications and applications in quantum computing, Resonance Science Foundation researchers are taking notice in the results of quantum Zeno effects because of potential implications in understanding the finely ordered and coherent state of the biological system. Just as quantum measurements are being utilized to stabilize the fragile state of an artificial qubit, similar mechanisms may be involved in stabilizing quantum states, natural qubits, in the biological system.
February 06, 2017.
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December 05, 2017. Quantum entangled photons have been produced in a class of biological macromolecules known as green fluorescent proteins (derived from bioluminescent organisms like jellyfish). In addition to producing entangled photons, it was found that the structure and shape of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) protected the photons from decoherence by environmental sources. The recent experiment has upturned reigning conventional thought regarding the possibility of quantum states in the biological system.