Jump to main content
Jump to site search


How quantum is radical pair magnetoreception?

Abstract

Currently the most likely mechanism of the magnetic compass sense in migratory songbirds relies on the coherent spin dynamics of pairs of photochemically formed radicals in the retina. Spin-conserving electron transfer reactions are thought to result in radical pairs whose near-degenerate electronic singlet and triplet states interconvert coherently as a result of hyperfine, exchange, and dipolar couplings and, crucially for a compass sensor, Zeeman interactions with the geomagnetic field. In this way, the yields of the reaction products can be influenced by magnetic interactions a million times smaller than kBT. The question we ask here is whether one can only account for the coherent spin dynamics using quantum mechanics. We find that semiclassical approximations to the spin dynamics of radical pairs only provide a satisfactory description of the anisotropic product yields when there is no electron spin-spin coupling, a situation unlikely to be consistent with a magnetic sensing function. Although these methods perform reasonably well for short-lived radical pairs with strong electron-spin coupling, the accurate simulation of anisotropic magnetic field effects relevant to magnetoreception seems to require full quantum mechanical calculations.

Back to tab navigation

Publication details

The article was received on 25 Apr 2019, accepted on 23 May 2019 and first published on 21 Jun 2019


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C9FD00049F
Faraday Discuss., 2019, Accepted Manuscript
  • Open access: Creative Commons BY-NC license
  •   Request permissions

    How quantum is radical pair magnetoreception?

    T. Fay, L. Lindoy, D. Manolopoulos and P. J. Hore, Faraday Discuss., 2019, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C9FD00049F

    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material and it is not used for commercial purposes.

    Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

    • For reproduction of material from NJC:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
    • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
      [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
    • For reproduction of material from PPS:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
    • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

    Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.

Search articles by author

Spotlight

Advertisements