Quantum coherence and entanglement in the avian compass

James A. Pauls, Goshen College
Yiteng Zhang, Purdue University
Gennady P. Berman, Los Alamos Natl Lab
Sabre Kais, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version



This is the published version ofJames A. Pauls, Yiteng Zhang , Gennady P. Berman, Sabre Kais. 2013. Quantum coherence and entanglement in the avian compass. First published in the Physical Review E and is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.87.062704.


The radical-pair mechanism is one of two distinct mechanisms used to explain the navigation of birds in geomagnetic fields, however little research has been done to explore the role of quantum entanglement in this mechanism. In this paper we study the lifetime of radical-pair entanglement corresponding to the magnitude and direction of magnetic fields to show that the entanglement lasts long enough in birds to be used for navigation. We also find that the birds appear to not be able to orient themselves directly based on radical-pair entanglement due to a lack of orientation sensitivity of the entanglement in the geomagnetic field. To explore the entanglement mechanism further, we propose a model in which the hyperfine interactions are replaced by local magnetic fields of similar strength. The entanglement of the radical pair in this model lasts longer and displays an angular sensitivity in weak magnetic fields, both of which are not present in previous models.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology