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Published on-line at 04:16:53 PM on Friday, October 21st, 2011

Optical simulators of energy transport in quantum photosynthetic systems and prospects for new solar energy technologies

Dr. Filippo Caruso has won a grant of €379.600 by FIRB to study quantum processes involved in photosynthesis through simulation with optical systems.

At the end of last decade a new research area between physics and biology was born: quantum biology. Its aim is to study the effects of quantum nature of processes occurring in living systems on biological functionality. The main biochemical process which it focuses attention on is photosynthesis, i.e. the ability of plants to transform, transport and harvest solar energy with a very high efficiency.

Many evidences let to think that behind these high values of efficiency, quantum nature of processes has a fundamental role. Dr. Filippo Caruso, with experiences in quantum communication and cryptography, after some years in England and Germany, want to address the challenge of developing theoretical models for photosynthesis, focusing on energy transport and using optical simulation.

Dr. Filippo Caruso

Thanks to the Future in Research (FIRB) program, Italian MIUR has funded a three years project coordinated by Dr. Filippo Caruso, that involved two groups: a theoretical one at Physics Department of University of Florence and an experimental one at INO-CNR institute. Filippo will work at LENS as person in charge of theoretical group supervised by Massimo Inguscio to develop theoretical models. The other group at INO will be coordinated by Dr. Silvia Viciani and will have to build optical systems that can implement models and simulate some characteristics and processes viewed in biological systems.

Understanding a biological process as important for life on Earth as photosynthesis is an interesting challenge by itself. But from a practical and technological point of view, being able to manage these processes means to design novel solutions for the exploitation of solar energy and the develop of a total new technology based on quantum biological concepts.