Session P38: Focus Session: Quantum Coherence in Biology III

8:00 AM–10:48 AM, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Room: A130/131

Sponsoring Units: DCP DBP
Chair: Seth Lloyd, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract ID: BAPS.2011.MAR.P38.6

Abstract: P38.00006 : Recent developments in the physics of your sense of smell

10:12 AM–10:24 AM

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  Andrew Horsfield
    (Imperial College London)

  Luca Turin

  Yeong-Ah Soh
    (Imperial College London)

  Marion Sourribes

  Marshall Stoneham

  Lianheng Tong

  Paul Warburton

A radical proposal in 1996 [L. Turin, Chem. Senses 21, 773 (1996)] was that human olfactory receptors use phonon assisted electron tunnelling to probe the vibrational spectrum of odorants in order to determine their chemical identity. A development of this model [J. C. Brookes et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., 98, 038101 (2007)] showed that this Turin mechanism is indeed physically possible, even robust, but left a number of questions open. One such question is: between which sites does the tunnelling electron pass? Our recent calculations support a particular pair of likely sites. Because of the complexity of biological environments, probing the receptor is difficult. Thus we have begun to investigate the properties of a semiconductor nanowire device that mimics the key processes [A. P. Horsfield et al., J. Appl. Phys., 108, 014511 (2010)]. We will present the latest findings of this study.

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