John F. Allen's Blog at

11th July 2016

Quantum secrets of photosynthesis at Summer Science Exhibition 2016

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 10:55 am

The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition is always full of interest. The 2016 exhibition had some remarkable displays and demonstrations.

Quantum secrets of photosynthesis was fascinating. I heard that energy transfer between chlorophyll molecules occurs more rapidly than can be explained by classical models, and that quantum superposition is required. I am not quite sure what that means, but need to find out. It somehow also has implications for understanding consciousness, apparently. Nicholas Allen, M.A. (Social Anthropology) was just as intrigued as I.


My own interest in energy transfer in photosynthesis is long-standing, while I tend to think much more of great big proteins carrying chlorophyll, changing shape, and lumbering around in membranes, to break and forge alliances with different photochemical reaction centres. I’ll have something to say on this in Verviers on August 13. I wonder if there are quantum secrets hidden under the classical model I carry around and that I have, perhaps, come to take for granted?

Full marks to Dr Alexandra Olaya-Castro and her team of enthusiasts at the exhibit for an entertaining set of demonstrations, accurate in the parts I think I understand, and accessible, I know, to a much wider audience.

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