Case study: Dr Alessandro Fedrizzi

Theo Murphy Blue Skies Award
Heriot-Watt University

Dr Alessandro Fedrizzi is Associate Professor in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University. He was awarded the Theo Murphy Blue Skies Award to work on an Ultrafast Sunlight Emulator for Quantum Biology.

What do you hope to achieve with this award over the next 2 years?
Photosynthesis, or light harvesting, is the process in which plants or bacteria turn light into useful chemical energy. This process can be incredibly efficient, much more so than classical understanding of the process allows. There are some results which imply that quantum coherence might be the key to unlocking this efficiency, however this evidence was obtained with coherent laser light which is entirely unlike sunlight in which this process naturally occurs. In this project we aim to build an ultrafast sunlight emulator that will allow us to study light-matter interaction with incoherent light sources that mimic natural conditions. 

Why did you apply for the Theo Murphy Blue Skies Award and how will it help you overcome specific challenges?
My main challenge was that the issues I’m trying to address sit at the boundary between disciplines and are still relatively unexplored, with competing results and disagreements over their correct interpretations. Funding my research through traditional grant schemes would have been tricky, since those are conservative, preferring work on already proven theory within the confines of one’s previous career path. The Theo Murphy Blue Skies award does not have these limitations and for me therefore was the perfect starting point for branching out into uncharted interdisciplinary territory.

What impact will your research have in the future?
My long term vision is to enable green quantum technology, which is quantum-enhanced technology that borrows from nature's blueprints for efficient processes such as light harvesting.