Programme "Scientific projects"

Quantum-limited biochemical magnetometers

Department of Physics, University of Crete


Quantum biology is a novel and promising synthesis between quantum physics and biology. This synthesis was, until recently, impossible to conceptualise because those two scientific fields were believed not to overlap, as quantum phenomena are perceptible only in complex experiments with systems whose interaction with the environment is significantly limited.
We have recently shown for the first time that the biochemical compass of migratory birds is a significant example where quantum physics explains the fundamental workings of a biochemical system. The latter is a chemical reaction, the outcome of which is influenced by earth’s magnetic field, thus allowing birds to navigate for long distances. We have shown that understanding these reactions requires several intricate concepts and phenomena of quantum physics.
In this project, we have demonstrated that the purely quantum mechanical Zeno effect offers several operational advantages to the mechanism of the avian magnetic compass, i.e., it “immunizes” the avian compass mechanism from the destructive influence of several molecular interactions. Thus a quantum effect renders a biochemical mechanism robust. Nature seems to have the ability to make smart use of quantum phenomena to support biochemical processes.

Website created as a result of the project:

Final report


Iannis Kominis, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, University of Crete

Project Team:

Argyris Dellis, Doctoral student, Department of Physics, University of Crete

Chrysanthi Syngelaki, MSc, Department of Physics, University of Crete

Voutes University Campus

Vasilika Voutwn

70013 Heraklion Crete

Tel.:  +30 2810 54 52 00

Fax: +30 2810 54 52 12