Quantum Light Harvesting Hints at Entirely New Form of Computing

Vittay and Kauffman explain the 100% efficiency of energy transfer in light harvesting complexes with a complex systems based blend of quantum and classical physics. (Details in the article above)

Light harvesting in plants and bacteria cannot be properly explained by classical processes or by quantum ones. Now complexity theorists say the answer is a delicate interplay of both, an idea that could transform computation.

Physicists have long known that plants and bacteria convert light into chemical energy in a way that is hugely efficient. But only in recent years have they discovered that the molecular machines behind this process rely on quantum mechanics to do the job.

Gabor Vattay at Eotvos University in Budapest and Stuart Kauffman at the University of Vermont in Burlington have the answer. They say the processes behind light harvesting are a special blend of the quantum and the classical. And that this delicate mix represents an entirely new form of computing that nature might exploit in other systems too.

... Vattay and Kauffman say the idea has other important implications. The problem of finding a reaction centre in a protein matrix is formally equivalent to many other problems in computing. So it ought to be possible to turn light harvesting to the task of computing by mapping one problem onto the other.

That could dramatically improve computational speeds at room temperature. “Computers based on artificial light harvesting complexes could have units with 100-1000 times larger efficiency at room temperature,” say Vattay and Kauffman.

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