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by Gerald Huth on February 3, 2010

I have noted in a number of previous Comments what I thought were important findings by  Engel et al  of , using their terms, “…. a wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic biological systems”. The subject of their measurements were a type of antenna protein in green sulfur bacteria. In quantum term, coherence is defined as an unexplainable  ‘multiple state of existence’. It is crucial to note that the existence of this quantum coherent wave energy transfer mechanism emerged from measurements that employed ultrafast (femtosecond or  10-15 sec) spectroscopy. Also, that these observations required cooling to temperatures below -300 degrees Fahrenheit.

A new paper published in Nature by Greg Scholes of the University of Toronto reports similar femtosecond specroscopy measurements made of a simpler light harvesting  marine algae structure with a finding of quantum coherence at room temperature. To quote: “they found that energy patterns in distant molecules fluctuated in ways that betrayed a connection to each other (1), something only possible through quantum coherence”. The review of this paper suggests that such quantum coherence is ‘routine’ in nature.


(1) This statement again conjures up the notion of ‘quantum magic’, i.e., from “betrayed a connection…etc”. What is observed in these results, however, is a real wave-like energy transfer connection that exists in the very fast, femtosecond  time domain, One should realize that measurement in this time domain represents a new capability for us. This would seem to explain why we have not observed this behavior before. Taken together with my explanation for light interaction with the retina, it may be that  we on the threshold of exorcising the magic?

Again, I have proposed that the nanostructure of retinal outer segments consists of individual light detection elements that function in the near field of light, i.e., at dimensions smaller than the wavelength of light. The actual dimensions of these centers consists of a micron (or sub-micron) dimensioned, wave-accepting space or spaces (the distance between individual receptor centers) that are necessarily adjacent to quantum confined electron areas that are of smaller nanometer dimension. This is the basic light detection ‘device’ of the retina. It follows that elements of these dimensions will possess the ability to function (absorb the light wave and transfer that energy to a quantized electron) in very fast time consistent with the above findings. The outer segment of the retina functions in the quantum domain !

It then follows, as I have proposed, that overlap of individual light detection events (that results in cancellation of signal) is eliminated (by simple Poisson calculation) by the speed of response of these elements. This would seem to explain the ability of the eye to sense single photons (really ‘quantized events’) and the extrordinary light collection efficiency of biological photosynthetic structures.


To continue…

I had noted in a Comment of 12.02.09 “Two Separate Regions of the Retina Function to Effect the Vision Process” that the nanostructure of the outer segments of retinal receptors functions in the femtosecond or quantum time regime consistent with the above findings of a new quantum coherence effect. There has even been longstanding (and unexplained) evidence of this in vision literature where isomerization of the (the ‘electron signal producing event’) retinal molecule contained within retinal receptors occurs in this time region.

I would note that I believe, and have proposed in the body of this work that the same classical/quantum mechanism that functions in light interaction with retinal outer segments also operates in plant photosynthesis. The ‘wave-accepting’ areas of the nanostructure, configured in the eye to produce an imag, are simply arrayed in parallel in the biological photosynthetic structures of plants and algae. This is even obvious!

I believe that these two papers  reporting a quantum coherence effect in biological photosynthetic systems are of significant importance. They represent the vanguard of a new quantum biology and will led to a more fundamental understanding of the vision process.

And the explanation for the vision process that I propose in this work will lead there!

Tucson, AZ


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