Chemical Compass Model for Avian Magnetoreception as a Quantum Coherent Device

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2013-05-12 - 2013-12-04

J.M. Cai and M.B. Plenio


Physical Review Letters 111, 230503 (2013)

It is known that more than 50 species use the Earth’s magnetic field for orientation and navigation. Intensive studies, particularly behavior experiments with birds, provide support for a chemical compass based on magnetically sensitive free radical reactions as a source of this sense. However, the fundamental question of how quantum coherence plays an essential role in such a chemical compass model of avian magnetoreception yet remains controversial. Here, we show that the essence of the chemical compass model can be understood in analogy to a quantum interferometer exploiting global quantum coherence rather than any subsystem coherence. Within the framework of quantum metrology, we quantify global quantum coherence and correlate it with the function of chemical magnetoreception. Our results allow us to understand and predict how various factors can affect the performance of a chemical compass from the unique perspective of quantum coherence assisted metrology. This represents a crucial step to affirm a direct connection between quantum coherence and the function of a chemical compass.