Scientists at the University of Chicago have discovered that the behavior of energy particles in photosynthesis is similar to that of an exotic state of matter known as exciton condensates. Photosynthesis is a process that occurs when a photon from the sun strikes a leaf, which causes a change in a specially designed molecule, and then the energy knocks loose an electron. The electron and the “hole” where it once was can travel around the leaf, carrying the energy of the sun to another area where it triggers a chemical reaction to make sugars for the plant.

The team of scientists noticed patterns in the paths of the excitons that looked remarkably familiar to the behavior of exciton condensates. The similarities between photosynthesis and exciton condensates could provide a foundation for designing future technology, including electronic devices, according to the authors.

Exciton Condensate
An exciton condensate is a strange state of matter that can form when a large number of excitons (which are pairs of an electron and a “hole” where an electron is missing) come together and behave as a single entity. In this state, the excitons all act in unison, like a synchronized set of bells ringing perfectly in tune. This allows energy to flow through the material with zero friction, which is why scientists find it fascinating and believe it could lead to exciting new technologies.

The finding is significant as exciton condensates have only been seen when the material is cooled significantly below room temperature. The scientists believe that the study may also suggest new ways to think about designing electronics. The research may lead to the creation of synthetic materials for future technology that boosts efficiency and can happen in ambient conditions.

Source: PRX Energy