Biology has been successful in applying classical physical models to explain many biological systems. However, there are still many biological phenomena that remain unexplained by classical physics. Examples include the highly efficient energy transport in chloroplasts during photosynthesis, the acute sense of smell possessed by dogs, the ability of migratory birds to sense faint geomagnetic fields, and the brain's processing of vast amounts of information. Recent studies suggest that these phenomena may be largely characterized by quantum effects, such as coherence, tunneling, and entanglement. Quantum biology is a field of research that aims to answer these questions from a quantum mechanical perspective, shedding light on the mesoscopic world – the boundary region between quantum and classical mechanics in living organisms – by studying the relationship between quantum coherence and the macroscopic dynamics of living organisms.
While the concept of quantum biology has been around for nearly 80 years since Erwin Schrödinger's book "What is Life?" was published, it has only recently emerged as a scientifically verifiable concept. This is thanks to recent technological advances such as time-resolved spectroscopy, single-molecule imaging, and X-ray lasers, which have enabled researchers to study quantum biological phenomena.
We aim to take the insights gained from quantum biology one step further and develop a new field of research called "quantum bioengineering," which will create innovative quantum technologies inspired by the findings of quantum biology. Based on this hypothesis, we plan to engineer quantum bio-inspired technology with the potential to revolutionize industry, energy, and medicine. For example, we hope to create solar cells that mimic the highly efficient energy transport capabilities of photosynthesis, gas sensors that replicate the extraordinary senses of animals like magnetoreception and olfaction, and infrared cameras that imitate the vision of nocturnal creatures. This paradigm shift from quantum biology to quantum bioengineering has the potential to be transformative.
- N. Lambert, Y. Chen, Y. Cheng, C. Li, G. Chen, and F. Nori, "Quantum biology", Nature Physics 9, 10 (2013)
- J. Cao, R. J. Cogdell, D. F. Coker, H. Duan, .., S. Westenhoff, and D. Zigmantas, "Quantum biology revisited", Science Advances 6, eaaz4888 (2020)
- K. Goda, "Quantum light and quantum life: understanding quantum-biological phenomena by quantum technology", Optronics 8, 54 (2020)
- Field leader: Yasutaka Kitahama
- Funding: MEXT Q-LEAP
- Collaboration: Serendipity Lab