Quantum Coherence and Entanglement in Open Quantum Systems

Yiteng Zhang, Purdue University


We humans always want to believe that we can overpower nature. However, the reality is that nature outperforms humans in many aspects. Animals' abilities to navigate/orient and photosynthesis are two excellent examples in these aspects. However, the mechanisms underlying them are still unknown. For decades, scientists and researchers have made a lot of efforts to reveal these mysteries in nature. Recently, quantum coherence and entanglement are believed to play a crucial role in such biological systems–avian compass and photosynthesis. Thus, nature might know more tricks to utilize quantum mechanics than humans. Studies on the mechanisms underlying avian compass and photosynthesis are highly able to improve or inspire new technologies in detection of weak magnetic fields and solar cells. In this thesis, the effect of quantum coherence and entanglement in these systems is studied. Based on the studied systems, this thesis falls into two parts: avian compass–radical pair mechanism and photosynthesis–enhancing photocell efficiency via coherence. The radical pair mechanism used to explain the avian compass is studied in the first part. It is demonstrated that Cryptochrome is a suitable candidate of the primary magnetoreceptor, located in birds' eyes. Also, the product yields due to the radical pair reactions are able to act as the direction signal for birds. The long-lived quantum entanglement has presented between the radical pairs. In photosynthesis, quantum coherence has been demonstrated to play an essential role in high energy conversion efficiency. Studies have revealed that the quantum coherence can break the detailed balance, the key factor limiting the efficiency in artificial solar cells. By mimicking photosynthetic complexes, a designed solar cell taking advantage of coherent donors caused by dipole-dipole interactions is able to achieve a higher energy conversion efficiency than the famous Shockley-Queisser limit. Again, more and more evidence has shown that quantum mechanics is able to play a crucial role in biological systems. Quantum coherence and entanglement, as main signatures of quantum mechanics, can be used to explain many astonishing phenomena in nature, such as avian magnetoreception and photosynthesis. Learning from nature can accelerate developments of new technologies.




Kais, Purdue University.

Subject Area


Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server