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Quantum DNA

The Quantum DNA (qDNA) research area is a collaboration among Drs. Bill Knowlton, Bernie Yurke, Jeunghoon Lee, Lan Li, Ryan Pensack, and Paul Davis. This collaboration spans multiple departments and colleges at Boise State and in combination forms the Quantum DNA Research Group. Dr. Li also leads the Materials Theory and Modeling Group at Boise State, which provides expertise and capabilities complementary to the collaboration. The Quantum DNA Research Group is itself organized into research teams: (1) Dye Synthesis (led by Dr. Olga Mass, (2) DNA Construct Synthesis (led by Prof. Lee), (2) Ultrafast Spectroscopy (led by Drs. Pensack and Davis), and (4) Theory and Simulation (led by Prof. Li). Prof. Knowlton and Dr. Yurke co-lead the group.

The qDNA research area pioneers the use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)—the building block of life on our planet—as a programmable, self-assembling architecture to organize dye molecules for quantum information systems (QIS). In particular, the qDNA research group has shown DNA self-assembly to be a viable platform for arranging and controlling the organization of dye aggregates to enable exciton delocalization. Exciton delocalization is the mechanism of energy transfer between dyes, in which an exciton is a bound electron-electron hole pair created when a dye is excited by a photon of light. Delocalization indicates that the exciton is not limited to one location and can move between dyes. Exciton delocalization and its electronic coherence between dyes and aggregates of dyes are mediated by several key parameters. We postulate, and have shown theoretically, that certain combinations of these parameters give rise to optically- accessible, entangled many-exciton states that can be tuned by tailoring the dye aggregate structure. Successful experimental demonstration of the preceding can result in defining design rules for a pathway to create, measure, and control quantum entanglement, a fundamental challenge in QIS. One of the long-term goals of the research group is to achieve room- temperature, molecular-excitonic quantum computing based on the rational design—that is using physical models to predict how a molecules structure will affect its behavior—of excitonic quantum gates. Most other quantum computing approaches may be more mature than this approach; however, they require extreme environments (e.g., extremely low temperatures, dry environments, external fields), and top-down approaches to fabricate constructs.

Professional Staff


Graduate Students

Undergraduate Students

  • Robbie Gill
  • Andrea Mariles Robles


  • Boise State’s Nanoscale Materials and Device Group
  • California State University, Chico
  • Integrated DNA Technologies
  • Naval Research Laboratory
  • New York University
  • Princeton University
  • SETA BioMedicals
  • Southern Utah University
  • Temple University


  • Department of Energy, Idaho National Laboratory, Laboratory Directed Research and
    Development (sub-contract: July 2017−April 2020)
  • National Science Foundation’s Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research
    and Education (INSPIRE) (August 2017−July 2021)
  • Department of Energy’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DOE
    EPSCoR) (Phase I: August 2019−August 2021)
  • Department of Energy’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DOE
    EPSCoR) (Phase II: August 2021−August 2023)
  • Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research (August 2019−August 2022)