Past Event

Chemistry Colloquium, Presented by Prof. Nathaniel Gabor

September 15, 2022
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
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Havemeyer 209

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Life as a Quantum Machine

Presented by Prof. Nathaniel Gabor


“It is by avoiding the rapid decay into the inert state of equilibrium that an organism appears so enigmatic,” wrote Schrodinger, “What an organism feeds upon is negative entropy.” Animals get this negative entropy by eating plants, while plants get their negative entropy - and energy - from the Sun’s radiation. From this observation, it is no wonder that photosynthesis has been the subject of such rigorous study across many disciplines. Indeed, photosynthesis is remarkable, achieving near unity light harvesting quantum efficiency in spite of dynamic light conditions, rapidly fluctuating molecular structure, and highly intricate energy transfer pathways. It remains unknown, however, whether there exists a fundamental organizing principle that gives rise to robust photosynthetic light harvesting. In this talk, I present a physicist’s perspective on photosynthesis, as first laid out by several pioneering quantum physicists including Erwin Schrödinger and George Gamow. I then describe two new paradigms – one theoretical and one experimental – that attempt to explain highly efficient light energy harvesting in complex networks. By understanding the connection between light harvesting network structure, noise, and quantum control, I show how light harvesting antennas can be finely tuned to maximize power conversion efficiency. Our noise-canceling antenna model and supercontinuum growth spectroscopy techniques establish remarkable elementary connections between highly efficient light energy harvesting, cell growth and stability, as well as energetic fluctuations. Our work, described in this talk, promises to have applications across various disciplines ranging from quantum nanoscience and computing to bionanoscience and astrobiology.

More About Prof. Gabor
Hosted by Xiaoyang Zhu

Contact Information

(212) 854-2202