Quantum researchers find noise isn’t always bad

A team of researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena have shown how noise can help transfer energy faster and more efficiently.

Energy is transported by waves. Noise, or something that disturbs the wave, usually inhibits wave motion and can slow it down substantially.

Recent research has indicated that there are certain situations in which noise improves wave transport in a phenomenon called Environment-Assisted Quantum Transport (ENAQT).

The lead researcher Dr. Ivan Kassal, who is working at the forefront of research on quantum effects in photosynthesis, said that ENAQT was first proposed as an explanation for the energy transfer which occurs in plants and bacteria when they harvest light during photosynthesis.

"Plants and bacteria harvest light using large antenna complexes. This light, or energy, is transported to reaction centres where the first chemical steps take place."

“The transport in the antenna is partially wave-like and very noisy,” said Dr Kassal.

“By demonstrating that noise can improve the efficiency of wave transport, we have taken steps towards understanding this process and applying our understanding to the creation of renewable-energy devices.”

Professor Andrew White, chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, said that this research is the first implementation of controlled quantum decoherence in integrated optics, which will allow novel quantum computation techniques that take advantage of noise.

Professor White said, "It also opens the possibility of applying ENAQT to engineered quantum systems, for instance using controlled noise to help waves to get from their source to their destination faster and more efficiently." 

This paper can be found in Nature Communications at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCOMMS11282.


Media: Dr Ivan Kassal, i.kassal@uq.edu.au; Tara Roberson, Communications, equs.engagement@uq.edu.au

For more information on quantum physics and photosynthesis, see this article in Lateral Magazine by EQuS PhD Student Samantha Hood

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.