Coupling up for enhanced reactions

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Science  27 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 494-495
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6362.494-d

Light is an essential ingredient in many biological contexts, such as photosynthesis and vision. The underlying assumption in such optical processes is that a single quantum of light, a photon, is absorbed per absorbing molecule, resulting in an excited state of the molecule. This places an upper limit on the quantum efficiency of any photochemical process. Galego et al. show theoretically how this limit can be overcome. By considering molecules in an optical cavity, a light-matter hybrid “supermolecule” can be created as the molecules couple together over long distance with a confined optical mode of the cavity. A single photon then can trigger a many-molecule reaction. Understanding, controlling, and enhancing the photochemical process will be crucial for developing new energy-harvesting technology.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 136001 (2017).

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