How is quantum physics linked to biological processes and what research is currently being conducted in this area?

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Quantum biology is the branch of science that uses quantum mechanics to explain biological processes such as avian magnetoreception, photosynthesis, and vision. Quantum mechanics is the science of the very small (the subatomic level). At this scale, particles behave in a very different way than even the tiniest forms of life such as bacteria. An example of this is the ability of a particle to exist in two places at once. 

Avian magnetoreception refers to a bird’s ability to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. The bird’s magnetic sensor is activated  when light hits the retina. When this happens, two free radicals are created. These particles help birds sense the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field. They are thought to be connected through quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement is the ability of two particles to stay connected despite being separated.

Photosynthesis is the process that plants and some microorganisms use to provide nutrients for themselves and release oxygen into the atmosphere. The energy for photosynthesis is powered by light. Photons (light particles) need to make their way to the  photosynthetic reaction center for this to occur. Somehow, nearly all photons are able to take the most efficient path. It is believed that photons use coherence to find their way. In this case, coherence gives photons the ability to sample multiple routes simultaneously and then travel using the most efficient route.

Coherence also plays a role in vision. One of the fastest chemical reactions known is the photoisomerization of rhodopsin (a protein involved in sensing changes in light). This occurs as soon as it makes contact with light. Like photosynthesis, coherence is thought to guide particles towards the most efficient path.

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