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Quantum physics is about to revolutionize biochemistry

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One of the strange consequences of quantum mechanics is the phenomenon of indistinguishability-that two quantum particles can be impossible to tell apart, even in principle.

Indistinguishability generally occurs at low temperatures while chemistry requires relatively high temperatures where objects tend to lose their quantum properties. As a result, chemists have long felt confident in ignoring the effects of quantum indistinguishability. Fisher and Radzihovsky say that while it may be generally true that quantum properties are lost at high temperatures, certain quantum phenomena endure.

Fisher and Radzihovsky show that quantum indistinguishability influences the way molecules fit together because it prevents interactions that don’t match the symmetry of the of nuclei.

The researchers go on to show that this effect causes para molecules to be significantly more reactive than ortho molecules, because their symmetry matches that of a wider range of other molecules.

These include isotope fractionation for which quantum indistinguishability provides a new mechanism, the phenomenon also explains the enhanced chemical activity of reactive oxygen species and provides a way for the spins of nuclei to influence biochemical molecules in general.


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Post Author: Kate Lunau

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