Resonance energy transfer (RET), the transport of electronic energy from one atom or molecule to another, has significant importance to a number of diverse areas of science. Since the pioneering experiments on RET by Cario and Franck in 1922, the theoretical understanding of the process has been continually refined. This review presents a historical account of the post-Förster outlook on RET, based on quantum electrodynamics, up to the present-day viewpoint. It is through this quantum framework that the short-range, R–6 distance dependence of Förster theory was unified with the long range, radiative transfer governed by the inverse-square law. Crucial to the theoretical knowledge of RET is the electric dipole-electric dipole coupling tensor; we outline its mathematical derivation with a view to explaining some key physical concepts of RET. The higher order interactions that involve magnetic dipoles and electric quadrupoles are also discussed. To conclude, a survey is provided on the latest research, which includes transfer between nanomaterials, enhancement due to surface plasmons, possibilities outside the usual ultraviolet or visible range and RET within a cavity.
- Interatomic Coulombic Decay, Cavity QED, Plasmonics, Photosynthesis, Electronic energy transfer, FRET, Förster theory, Solar harvesting