Forum on quantum biology explores a new, intriguing realm
Quantum biology, though still in its infancy, may be a game changer across a wide range of sectors from bioengineering to sustainable energy, say scientists.
The annual Daesung Haegan Microbes Forum 2022, hosted by Daesung Group, was held Tuesday at the Westin Josun Hotel in central Seoul. In its fifth year, this year’s event was themed “What is life? The Quantum — A new frontier in biotechnology,” focusing on quantum biology and its potential applications.
“The themes of quantum biology and quantum mechanics are profound in nature, and complex to unravel,” said Younghoon David Kim, Daesung Group chairman and World Energy Council honorary chairman, in an opening speech for the event. “Yet these themes have in the past 10 to 15 years gradually developed into hot topics.
“And perhaps more than ever, we are closer to understanding the vast potential they offer, not simply in theoretical terms, but also in practical application," Kim said.
Quantum biology studies the application of quantum mechanics and theoretical chemistry in biology. It inspects aspects of biology that have not been clearly explained by classical physics in the light of quantum mechanics.
Quantum biology is an emerging field, especially in Korea, but recent developments are providing new insights into many unsolved issues, said Kim Young-chan, professor of quantum biology at the University of Surrey in England.
“We are given opportunities to solve big challenges humanity is currently facing — such as developing sustainable energy — by utilizing next-generation quantum technology,” said Kim.
For example, the process of plant photosynthesis, which had not been adequately explained in classical physics, was unraveled with the idea of quantum coherence. Such revelation may contribute to developing a new energy system or food production method using the principle of photosynthesis in the future.
As the field gains traction, more than 1,000 thesis papers on quantum biology are expected to be published this year, according to Kim.
“The fact that this forum is taking place and people are really interested in quantum biology now means that our eyes are open,” said Jonathan R. Woodward, professor of quantum biology at University of Tokyo.
“Scientists are looking and believing and having confidence in the existence of these quantum mechanical effects,” emphasized Woodward, adding that newly emerging ideas in quantum biology will “drive really exciting new science and transformative technology.”
“Last year, the science ministry and our directorate of national strategic R&D [research and development] programs have named quantum computing and synthetic biology as the core fields in securing Korea’s technological sovereignty,” said Oh Min-kyu, project manager at the National Research Foundation of Korea, in a speech.
Quantum biology is “the common denominator of the two fields,” which may bring an explosive change to the world, explained Oh.
Quantum computing and synthetic biology “will change the world significantly in 10 to 20 years, and we cannot expect to what extent that change would take place at this point,” said Oh. “An innovative shift may come, similar to what the Internet technology had led to.”
Speakers at the forum included Hyeon Taeg-hwan, professor of the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University (SNU), and Jeong Hyun-seok, a physics professor at SNU, as well.
BY SHIN HA-NEE [email@example.com]