Academic and research departmentsAdvanced Technology Institute, Leverhulme Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre (QB-DTC), Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
My research project
Highly efficient photon absorption in the retina
Retina cells demonstrate the amazing capability of single-photon detection, pointing at the ability of biological photoreceptors to exhibit quantum mechanical properties at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure, in a ‘noisy’ biological environment. In the human retina, photo transduction is an enormously efficient process, involving multi-wavelength photon absorption by different rod and cone cells and signal transfer through neurons towards the optical nerve. Several quantum processes have been suggested as mechanisms, contributing to the remarkable speed and efficiency of photoisomerization and subsequent signal transduction, including quantum coherence, superposition, and tunnelling in retina cells. Mimicking these processes with bio-compatible, synthetic organic molecular systems will provide pathways for a deeper understanding.
This project studies the use of the commercially available retinal molecule as a model photo-sensitive compound, as well as synthetic analogues of different (poly-ene) chain lengths, and polymer nanoparticles, for studies of their photoresponses in simulated bio-environments, and the influence of such environments, through torsional confirmations and nano-confinement, on the shift of peak absorption wavelength of chromophores to match that of human eye rods and cones. The phototransduction effect of human eye retina cell photoreceptor proteins rhodopsins (rods) and iodopsins (cones) bound to retinal will be mimicked by using the photosensitive conjugated molecules in a gel-electrolyte environment, and surface bound to membranes, to induce depolarisation effects to stimulate retina neuron depolarisation. The construction of a full colour response prosthetic retina ultra-flexible device will be attempted to investigate the feasibility of vision restoration. The study will also suggest strategies for the fabrication of single-photon bio-inspired molecular detectors that could help to increase the efficiency of solar cells.