Engineering Coherence Among Excited States in Synthetic Heterodimer Systems

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1431-1434
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233828

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Coherence in Photosynthesis

It is unclear how energy absorbed by pigments in antenna proteins is transferred to the central site of chemical catalysis during photosynthesis. Hildner et al. (p. 1448) observed coherence—prolonged persistence of a quantum mechanical phase relationship—at the single-molecule level in light-harvesting complexes from purple bacteria. The results bolster conclusions from past ensemble measurements that coherence plays a pivotal role in photosynthetic energy transfer. Hayes et al. (p. 1431, published online 18 April) examined a series of small molecules comprised of bridged chromophores that also manifest prolonged coherence.


The design principles that support persistent electronic coherence in biological light-harvesting systems are obscured by the complexity of such systems. Some electronic coherences in these systems survive for hundreds of femtoseconds at physiological temperatures, suggesting that coherent dynamics may play a role in photosynthetic energy transfer. Coherent effects may increase energy transfer efficiency relative to strictly incoherent transfer mechanisms. Simple, tractable, manipulable model systems are required in order to probe the fundamental physics underlying these persistent electronic coherences, but to date, these quantum effects have not been observed in small molecules. We have engineered a series of rigid synthetic heterodimers that can serve as such a model system and observed quantum beating signals in their two-dimensional electronic spectra consistent with the presence of persistent electronic coherences.

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