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My research focuses on the theory of open quantum dynamics in nanoscale systems. Recently, experimental evidence has shown that quantum mechanical effects can be observed in photosynthetic systems, most notably in 2D optical spectroscopy. This observation is surprising, given that these systems function in noisy environments at room temperature, where quantum effects are normally considered to be negligible. I am interested in the initial, extremely efficient, energy transfer stages of photosynthesis and on how quantum mechanical phenomena can be sustained in these processes. Ultimately, understanding how photosynthetic organisms use sunlight to separate charges could provide valuable insights into how to improve artificial light-harvesting devices.
In order to reach this level of understanding, I am working on simulating 2D spectroscopy experiments to show how different physical mechanisms might be observed in them. 2D optical spectroscopy has the potential to give an unprecedented level of insight into the ultrafast electronic and vibrational dynamics of a range of molecular and condensed-matter systems, however separating out this information is non-trivial. I am particularly interested in the ability of 2D spectroscopy to resolve optically dark states, for example charge-transfer and charge separated states in the case of photosynthetic light reactions or organic photovoltaic devices.
In Plain English
As early as 1944, Erwin Schrödinger- one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics- made the bold suggestion that in order to fully understand biological systems we might need to go beyond the familiar regimes of classical science into the counterintuitive world of quantum mechanics. However, evidence that this might really be the case has only been observed recently, via a new experimental laser technique known as ‘2D optical spectroscopy’. This technique allows insight into the dynamics of a huge range of materials, helping us to determine whether they are intrinsically quantum mechanical in nature. By applying 2D spectroscopy to the biological systems involved in photosynthesis, a better understanding of how these systems work can be reached, including the role of quantum mechanics. Ultimately, this could lead to valuable insights into how to improve artificial light harvesting devices.
- Real-time observation of multiexcitonic states in ultrafast singlet fission using coherent 2D electronic spectroscopy. Nature Chem. 8 16 - 23 (2016)