Vibrational structures and long-lasting electronic coherence
Recent observations of beating signals in the excitation energy transfer dynamics of photosynthetic complexes have been interpreted as evidence for sustained coherences that are sufficiently long-lived for energy transport and coherence to coexist. The possibility that coherence may be exploited in biological processes has opened up new avenues of exploration at the interface of physics and biology. The microscopic origin of these long-lived coherences, however, remains to be uncovered. Here we present such a mechanism and verify it by numerically exact simulations of system-environment dynamics. Crucially, the non-trivial spectral structures of the environmental fluctuations and particularly discrete vibrational modes can lead to the generation and sustenance of both oscillatory energy transport and electronic coherence on timescales that are comparable to excitation energy transport. This suggests that the non-trivial structure of protein environments plays a more significant role for coherence in biological processes than previously believed.