Recent observations of oscillatory features in the optical response of photosynthetic complexes have revealed evidence for surprisingly long-lasting electronic coherences which can coexist with energy transport. These observations have ignited multidisciplinary interest in the role of quantum effects in biological systems, including the fundamental question of how electronic coherence can survive in biological surroundings. Here we show that the non-trivial spectral structures of protein fluctuations can generate non-equilibrium processes that lead to the spontaneous creation and sustenance of electronic coherence, even at physiological temperatures. Developing new advanced simulation tools to treat these effects, we provide a firm microscopic basis to successfully reproduce the experimentally observed coherence times in the Fenna–Matthews–Olson complex, and illustrate how detailed quantum modelling and simulation can shed further light on a wide range of other non-equilibrium processes which may be important in different photosynthetic systems.
At a glance
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