Are there non trivial quantum effects in biology? A discussion from an open quantum system perspective

Susana Huelga

Susana Huelga is a professor of quantum optics within the Institute of Theoretical Physics (ITP) at Ulm University. Her research activity focuses on different aspects of open system dynamics and in particular their potential for the development of quantum technologies.  She has ample expertise in the implementation of quantum information processing in quantum optical platforms, quantum metrology, numerical simulation methods of quantum many-body systems as well as the study of noise-assisted quantum processes, in particular in the context of quantum transport processes in complex systems. Susana Huelga is also a collaborator of the Centre of Quantum BioScience (ZQB) which has been established to foster collaborative research at the intersection of quantum science and technology with chemistry, biology and medicine.


The development of multi-dimensional spectroscopy in the optical domain has facilitated probing ultra-fast time scales in the dynamics of different photosynthetic complexes. The observation of coherent behavior in this type of systems, which exhibit a significant degree of complexity and are subject to fast environmental decoherence, rises a number of pertinent questions. On the one hand, one needs to understand what the nature of that coherence is and identify the physical mechanisms that can lead to persistent oscillations in the spectral response as well as being consistent with available linear spectroscopy data. Moreover, should coherent dynamics extend over time scales comparable to those of energy/charge transfer processes, one would like to analyze the possibility that quantum coherence may either be directly relevant for biological function or have the possibility to be enhanced in biomimetic architectures.  In both situations, suitable quantitative figures of merit relating coherent dynamics and enhanced performance for a given task need to be provided.

In this seminar, I will revise recent theoretical work aimed at addressing these complementary questions and provide the state of the art of the field sometimes referred to as “Quantum Biology” from the perspective of an open quantum system approach.

Contact details:

Tobias Galla

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