Does Coherence Enhance Transport in Photosynthesis?

J Phys Chem Lett. 2013 Feb 7;4(3):362-7. doi: 10.1021/jz301872b. Epub 2013 Jan 11.


Recent observations of coherence in photosynthetic complexes have led to the question of whether quantum effects can occur in vivo, not under femtosecond laser pulses but in incoherent sunlight and at steady state, and, if so, whether the coherence explains the high exciton transfer efficiency. We introduce the distinction between state coherence and process coherence and show that although some photosynthetic pathways are partially coherent processes, photosynthesis in nature proceeds through stationary states. This distinction allows us to rule out several mechanisms of transport enhancement in sunlight. In particular, although they are crucial for understanding exciton transport, neither wavelike motion nor microscopic coherence, on their own, enhance the efficiency. By contrast, two partially coherent mechanisms-ENAQT and supertransfer-can enhance transport even in sunlight and thus constitute motifs for the optimization of artificial sunlight harvesting. Finally, we clarify the importance of ultrafast spectroscopy in understanding incoherent processes.

Keywords: ENAQT; exciton transport; incoherent excitation; quantum biology; supertransfer; transport efficiency.