Using coherence to enhance function in chemical and biophysical systems


Coherence phenomena arise from interference, or the addition, of wave-like amplitudes with fixed phase differences. Although coherence has been shown to yield transformative ways for improving function, advances have been confined to pristine matter and coherence was considered fragile. However, recent evidence of coherence in chemical and biological systems suggests that the phenomena are robust and can survive in the face of disorder and noise. Here we survey the state of recent discoveries, present viewpoints that suggest that coherence can be used in complex chemical systems, and discuss the role of coherence as a design element in realizing function.

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Figure 1: Coherence phenomena.
Figure 2: Coherences revealed by experiment.
Figure 3: Vibrations change the picture.
Figure 4: Long-range excitons.
Figure 5: Coherent motion in transition metal complexes.


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We gratefully acknowledge the Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences, Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the US Department of Energy. We thank M. Spitler and J. Krause for leading the organization of the Basic Energy Sciences workshop on ‘Optimal Coherence in Chemical and Biophysical Dynamics’. G.D.S. thanks E. Sorensen for explaining electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions. We thank E. D. Foszcz for providing Fig. 5c. We thank L. T. Rumbles for improving the manuscript.

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L.X.C. proposed the workshop to the Department of Energy Council for Chemical and Biochemical Sciences. G.D.S. and G.R.F. wrote the paper with substantive input from all co-authors. All the authors formulated and discussed the content of the paper and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gregory D. Scholes or Graham R. Fleming.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks C. Lienau, A. Troisi and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Scholes, G., Fleming, G., Chen, L. et al. Using coherence to enhance function in chemical and biophysical systems. Nature 543, 647–656 (2017).

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