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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Design and applications of bio-inspired quantum materials

  • Author(s): Sarovar, M
  • Eisele, DM
  • Whaley, KB
  • et al.

© Cambridge University Press 2014. In this chapter, we explore the opportunities that the dynamical quantum effects recently revealed as components of key functions of plants and higher organisms and described in previous chapters, might offer for the design of new nano-scale materials possessing quantum-enhanced functionality. We discuss the potential applications of such biomimetic materials with engineered quantum properties, and present a review of progress thus far on two prototypical systems: biomimetic light-harvesting materials and biomimetic magnetic sensors. Potential applications of bio-inspired quantum materials It is well appreciated that quantum dynamics can lead to enhanced performance in tasks such asmetrology (Giovannetti et al., 2011), computing (Nielsen and Chuang, 2001) and communication (Gisin and Thew, 2007). However, such enhancements have yet to be realized for artificial systems in the biological domain. As discussed in earlier chapters of this book, it has been demonstrated or hypothesized that quantum processes are critical to the accurate description of the functional dynamics of several biological systems. What opportunities do these observations present for the motivation and development of biomimetic materials? The possibility of constructing artificial materials with the ability to mimic natural systems leads to a diverse range of potential applications. A key question is thus whether we can use nature's ingenuity as inspiration and incorporate quantum effects into synthetic systems to provide quantum-enhanced function? Such explorations also hold out the tandem promise of achieving greater understanding of the role of quantum mechanics in biological function, since in contrast with the traditional top-down approach to investigating natural systems, this perspective requires the development of a bottom-up approach to synthesis of unnatural systems possessing capability to mimic all or part of some biological role.

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