PhD Project
Honours Project
Dr Ivan Kassal

Photosynthetic organisms harvest light through large antenna complexes containing many chlorophyll molecules. Recent experiments have found that energy may be transported through antenna complexes—and onward to the reaction centre, where the chemistry happens—in a coherent, wavelike manner. This was a very surprising finding because it was thought impossible for quantum effects to survive for so long in biological systems at room temperature. The discovery opened the possibility that nature, after billions of years of evolution, developed light-harvesting systems that take advantage of some sort of quantum enhancement. Could we learn from it?

This project is a study of how light harvesting functions in natural sunlight, which, unlike the pulsed lasers used in experiments, is incoherent. In sunlight, energy transport occurs at steady state, a dramatically simpler regime than when lasers are used. We'll exploit these simplifications to develop new methods for describing light harvesting in sunlight and apply them to a variety of natural and artificial systems. We'll clarify how bacteria and plants harvest sunlight and we'll suggest principles for enabling artificial light harvesting units, such as solar cells, to take advantage of quantum effects. 

Visit us at http://research.smp.uq.edu.au/kassal/