Photonic Chip Used As Quantum Simulator To Model Molecular Dynamics

An international scientific team has shown how an optical chip can simulate the motion of atoms within molecules at the quantum level. Data from the chip allows a frame-by-frame reconstruction of atomic motions to create a virtual movie of a molecule’s quantum vibrations.

Researchers exploited the natural mapping between vibrations in molecules and photons in waveguides. They simulated the time evolution of vibrational excitations in the harmonic approximation for several four-atom molecules. They then simulated coherent and dephased energy transport in the simplest model containing the peptide bond in proteins — N-methylacetamide — and simulated thermal relaxation and the effect of anharmonicities in H2O.

“We can program a photonic chip to mimic the vibrations of a molecule, mapping its components to the structure of a particular molecule, say ammonia, and then simulate how a particular vibrational pattern evolves over some time interval. By taking many time intervals, we essentially build up a movie of the molecular dynamics,” said University of Bristol physicist Anthony Laing, who led the project.

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