In 2007 some fascinating experiments, based on ultra-fast spectroscopy techniques, have shown that electronic excitation energy transfer in light-harvesting complexes, involved in one step of bacterial photosynthesis, has to be described by quantum physics, while classical mechanics does not allow one to well explain the experimental data. In these biological systems, the efficiency of transferring sunlight energy to molecular reaction centres is extremely high (nearly 100%). Speed is the key - the transfer of solar energy takes place almost instantaneously so little energy is wasted as heat. Here, the presence of quantum effects seems to play a crucial role in the very efficient, fast and robust electron energy transfer, delivering also the novel idea that these principles might find interesting and promising application for new more efficient solar cells based on natural photosynthesis and quantum phenomena. In the last ten years, this had led to a new challenging, exciting, young but very rapidly developing research field, i.e. quantum biology, focused on theoretical and experimental investigations of quantum effects in biology.
Indeed, Quantum Biology is a new strategically important and rapidly developing research field, whose practical implementations will be crucial, in the 21st century, for novel renewable energy technologies and for the creation of a European knowledge-based bio-economy. Since 2008, we have investigated theoretically and experimentally the role of quantum effects in biology, especially in natural photosynthesis, by studying theoretical models of energy transport in quantum complex networks and testing them by means of designed experiments based on quantum optics, atomic physics, and also ultra-fast laser spectroscopy on natural and artificial light-harvesting complexes. This has allowed us to have a deeper understanding of how Nature exploits quantum coherence and environmental noise to get very efficient and robust energy transfer, and to pave the way for the realization of a new generation of more powerful solar energy and also ICT technologies based on quantum phenomena.