The coherence time of sunlight in the context of natural and artificial light-harvesting

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The suggestion that quantum coherence might enhance biological processes such as photosynthesis is not only of fundamental importance but also leads to hopes of developing bio-inspired ‘green’ quantum technologies that mimic nature. A key question is how the timescale of coherent processes in molecular systems compare to that of the driving light source—the Sun. Across the quantum biology literature on light-harvesting, the coherence time quoted for sunlight spans about two orders of magnitude, ranging from 0.6 to ‘10s’ of femtoseconds. This difference can potentially be significant in deciding whether the induced light-matter coherence is long enough to affect dynamical processes following photoexcitation. Here we revisit the historic calculations of sunlight coherence starting with the black-body spectrum and then proceed to provide values for the more realistic case of atmospherically filtered light. We corroborate these values with interferometric measurements of the complex degree of temporal coherence from which we calculate the coherence time of atmospherically filtered sunlight as 1.12±0.04fs, as well as the coherence time in a chlorophyll analogous filtered case as 4.87±0.21fs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5438
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


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