Not so long ago, quantum physics at room temperature was found mostly in classroom discussions or over science-geek cocktails. But the mind-bending mechanics seems to be present in many everyday phenomena — including photosynthesis, the driving force behind life’s harvest of solar energy.
A process called coherence allows photon energy to find the shortest path through a leaf’s surface by taking all possible paths simultaneously, then “picking” the best one. The resulting energy transfer is almost perfectly efficient.
“Coherence is well-known in energy transfer in nonbiological systems,” said Elad Harel, a University of Chicago physicist. “The question was whether biological systems take advantage of this as well.”