21 February 2015

Slightly out of tune

Although the chlorophyll molecules in the special pair are identical, they are embedded in different environments in the protein scaffold, which makes them vibrate at slight different frequencies: they are slightly out of tune...This structure provides photosynthetic reaction centres with the precise molecular architecture needed for them to work as quantum heat engines...Chlorophyll's special pair appears to be tuned to exploit quantum interference to inhibit inefficient wasteful energy routes and thereby deliver energy to the acceptor molecule with an efficiency that exceeds the...Carnot limit by...18 [to] 27 percent.
from Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden (2014), citing Photosynthetic reaction center as a quantum heat engine.

Image: NHM

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