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Concept# Symmetry in biology

Summary

Symmetry in biology refers to the symmetry observed in organisms, including plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. External symmetry can be easily seen by just looking at an organism. For example, the face of a human being has a plane of symmetry down its centre, or a pine cone displays a clear symmetrical spiral pattern. Internal features can also show symmetry, for example the tubes in the human body (responsible for transporting gases, nutrients, and waste products) which are cylindrical and have several planes of symmetry.
Biological symmetry can be thought of as a balanced distribution of duplicate body parts or shapes within the body of an organism. Importantly, unlike in mathematics, symmetry in biology is always approximate. For example, plant leaves – while considered symmetrical – rarely match up exactly when folded in half. Symmetry is one class of patterns in nature whereby there is near-repetition of the pattern element, either by reflection or rotation.
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Phonon-assisted luminescence is a key property of defect centers in semiconductors, and can be measured to perform the readout of the information stored in a quantum bit, or to detect temperature variations. The investigation of phonon-assisted luminescence usually employs phenomenological models, such as that of Huang and Rhys, with restrictive assumptions that can fail to be predictive. In this work, we predict luminescence and study exciton-phonon couplings within a rigorous many-body perturbation theory framework, an analysis that has never been performed for defect centers. In particular, we study the optical emission of the negatively charged boron vacancy in 2D hexagonal boron nitride, which currently stands out among defect centers in 2D materials thanks to its promise for applications in quantum information and quantum sensing. We show that phonons are responsible for the observed luminescence, which otherwise would be dark due to symmetry. We also show that the symmetry breaking induced by the static Jahn-Teller effect is not able to describe the presence of the experimentally observed peak at 1.5 eV.

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