Quantum Biology + Computer Science: Photosynthesis, Quantum Coherence & Constructive Noise

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 “Nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.” — Richard Feynman 

Photosynthesis is an amazingly efficient and fast circular process of energy conversion that’s evolved in bacteria and plants over billions of years. And it’s being actively researched on a numbers of different fronts for technological benefit, from creating high performance solar cells to more recently, better understanding and applying quantum mechanics. 

There’s a growing body of not too surprising evidence supporting that plants already invented quantum computing. This occurs during the ultrafast conversion of solar to chemical energy. This is electronic, as in referring to electron transfer and maintaining electronic coherence. (1)

Here’s an important aside mention: The burgeoning field of Quantum Biology that takes an open systems approach, tells us that there are also many quantum processes occurring within us. For example, quantum tunneling within protein structures, and as related to eyesight and sense of smell. 

Back to Quantum Coherence — This involves extended superposition, or being in different places states at once, and the entanglement of waves allows for extremely fast to instantaneous transfer of information and correlations, which is of course much desired for advances in complex computing.

Photosynthesis and associated quantum coherence is a natural ability of most of the plant kingdom at ambient temperatures. However thus far for the most part, the human tech world has designed quantum computers that must operate qubits, or quantum bits, at very cold temperatures.


The photosynthetic equivalent of the qubit could be the chlorophyll, that rapidly share information and possibilities through “exciton” or virtual photon states. The natural light-harvesting systems of plants can remarkably – and with excellent efficiency – utilize the electronic excitation of light with resonant energy transfer in different environments, including the harshest in the world. (2)

In quantum computing thus far, qubits are largely superconducting metallics or atoms from metals. There are also photonic qubits made of light in development, and qubits are being stimulated by lasers. However, these systems are occurring in isolated environments such that any noise or disturbance becomes a problem. 

What if sought after “light-addressable molecules” could be plant-based or influenced by the genius of photosynthesis? (3) It could be illuminating to also consider the behavior of light-catching chromophores and organic molecules such as NADPH. 

Next, what is especially interesting and relevant to quantum computing is how wise nature makes use of noise — which yet furthers that idea that everything has a purpose and nothing is truly extraneous. “Noise-assisted quantum transport” facilitates quantum transfer, bridge gaps and block less ideal paths.(1) Photosynthesis makes favorable use of noise and works in tandem with environmental fluctuations and degrees of freedom. 

There’s a lot more to say and investigate on this topic but for now, in conclusion: Bio-influenced computing, possibly recreating a version of the natural light harvesting complex, could be a very promising avenue for making quantum technology work. And researchers here at Boston University agree, “that photosynthetic circuits could unlock new technological capabilities. Their work is showing promising early results.” (4)

  1. “Environment-assisted quantum transport,” Quantum Effects In Biology, Mohseni et al, Cambridge University Press, 2014. (Main reference source)
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Förster_resonance_energy_transfer

3. https://www.innovationnewsnetwork.com/molecules-respond-light-build-qubit-systems-quantum-computers/10691/

4. https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/photosynthesis-and-quantum-computing-technology/


Published by sarah ikerd

@sarah.ikerd / owner

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