A critical view on transport and entanglement in models of photosynthesis

Markus Tiersch, Sandu Popescu, Hans J. Briegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


We revisit critically the recent claims, inspired by quantum optics and quantum information, that there is entanglement in the biological pigment-protein complexes, and that it is responsible for the high transport efficiency. While unexpectedly long coherence times were experimentally demonstrated, the existence of entanglement is, at the moment, a purely theoretical conjecture; it is this conjecture that we analyse. As demonstrated by a toy model, a similar transport phenomenology can be obtained without generating entanglement. Furthermore, we also argue that, even if entanglement does exist, it is purely incidental and seems to play no essential role for the transport efficiency. We emphasize that our paper is not a proof that entanglement does not exist in light-harvesting complexes-this would require a knowledge of the system and its parameters well beyond the state of the art. Rather, we present a counter-example to the recent claims of entanglement, showing that the arguments, as they stand at the moment, are not sufficiently justified and hence cannot be taken as a proof for the existence of entanglement, let alone of its essential role, in the excitation transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3771-3786
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1972
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2012


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