On-chip bio-opto-mechanics: Controlling phonon-assisted processes in single biomolecules

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


Photosynthetic organisms rely on nano-scale molecular complexes to absorb sunlight and transfer the associated electronic excitation energy to initiate the chemical energy conversion steps that sustain life processes on Earth. Theoretical and experimental studies suggest that such light-harvesting complexes exploit, in a versatile manner, different molecular vibrations to optimise energy transfer processes. But how exactly vibrations affect the efficiency, directionality, and quantum properties of energy dynamics in photosynthetic units is yet to be fully understood. To gain this understanding it is necessary to develop scientific approaches that allow precise control and enhancement or suppression of specific vibrational motions of individual molecules.
In this project, we will investigate, both theoretically and experimentally, the role of mechanical vibrations in the way bio-molecules transfer the energy that they can absorb from sunlight or, in our experiments, excitation laser sources.
By investigating bio-molecules embedded within nano-fabricated devices that can control mechanical vibrations, we will shine new light onto the microscopic processes that control energy dynamics at the molecular scale. The knowledge created in this project will be the foundation to realise novel energy capture and transfer devices by taking advantage of our ability to reverse engineering natural processes.


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