## In a major collaborative breakthrough, the University of Sydney scientists have finally directly glimpsed a famously ephemeral quantum process underpinning photochemical reactions.

By essentially slowing down time, the quantum observation recasts our understanding of light-driven molecular events.

Conical intersections provide photochemistry’s hidden energetic passways, enabling ultrafast transformations like human vision and plant photosynthesis. But their sheer speed has rendered them invisible until now.

By programming a quantum computer to simulate these interactions, researchers could dilate the femtosecond-scale dynamics to observable milliseconds – slowing reactions by a staggering factor of 100 billion.

This quantum time warping allowed the mapping of conical intersections’ signature interference patterns and trajectories as a qubit-mimicked passage through the reaction. The team constructed molecular movies tracking the qubit’s twisted path, elucidating the elusive quantum effects at play.

Rather than a rough approximation, this quantum approach provided an analogue observation demystifying the true quantum dynamics. It offers an unprecedented glimpse into photochemistry’s veiled inner workings to inform new light-driven innovations.

The breakthrough exemplifies the power of weaving expertise across disciplines. Chemists framed the enigma’s parameters while physicists designed an ingenious quantum solution. This cooperative ethos will likely continue unveiling nature’s best-kept quantum secrets.

By finally holding time still within a quantum system, the researchers brought photochemistry’s transient, tangled quantum dance into crystalline focus. Just as freezing a hummingbird’s frenetic fluttering reveals wondrous complexity, this quantum-enabled view illuminates photochemical principles to reshape our mastery over molecular reactivity.

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Reference: “Direct observation of geometric-phase interference in dynamics around a conical intersection” by C. H. Valahu, V. C. Olaya-Agudelo, R. J. MacDonell, T. Navickas, A. D. Rao, M. J. Millican, J. B. Pérez-Sánchez, J. Yuen-Zhou, M. J. Biercuk, C. Hempel, T. R. Tan and I. Kassal, 28 August 2023, *Nature Chemistry*.

DOI: 10.1038/s41557-023-01300-3