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Sensing Of Molecules Using Quantum Dynamics

Agostino Migliore, Ron Naaman, David N. Beratan

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We design sensors where information is transferred between the sensing event and the actuator via quantum relaxation processes, through distances of a few nanometers. We thus explore the possibility of sensing using intrinsically quantum mechanical phenomena that are also at play in photobiology, bioenergetics, and information processing. Specifically, we analyze schemes for sensing based on charge transfer and polarization (electronic relaxation) processes. These devices can have surprising properties. Their sensitivity can increase with increasing separation between the sites of sensing (the receptor) and the actuator (often a solid-state substrate). This counterintuitive response and other quantum features give these devices favorable characteristics, such as enhanced sensitivity and selectivity. Using coherent phenomena at the core of molecular sensing presents technical challenges but also suggests appealing schemes for molecular sensing and information transfer in supramolecular structures.