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In biophysics and alternative medicine , the term "biophotons" ( Greek βίος bíos , German 'life' and φῶς phṓs , German 'light' ) is used by a few authors for the phenomenon of ultra-weak photon emission (UPE) in biology . The radiation referred to here differs from bioluminescence in that its intensity is several orders of magnitude lower and its quantum yield is very low . Interpretations of radiation are scientifically controversial.


In the 1920s, after experiments with germinating onions , the Russian biologist Alexander Gurwitsch came to the conclusion that living cells emit very weak light radiation . He called it "mitogenic radiation" based on his assumption that this radiation could trigger cell division ( mitosis ). Because of the emerging biochemistry , which describes cell processes as the consequences of biochemical signal chains, this assumption was not further investigated. The source of this "dark luminescence" was, as far as its existence was recognized at all, attributed to spontaneous imperfections in the cell metabolism (e.g. oxidation and radical reactions). A biological significance was doubted. The main opponent of Gurwitsch's theses was the biochemist Alexander Hollaender . He and other scientists were of the opinion that the discovery would remain in doubt until the radiation was objectively measured.

In 1954, the Italian astronomers Colli and Facchini stated that they had found a weak, constant light emission from living plant material using a large-area photomultiplier in single-photon counting mode. In a 1967 review , Metcalf and Quickenden stated that research in Great Britain and the USA had been discontinued after intensive but negative studies. In the 1970s , the German physicist Fritz-Albert Popp again demonstrated photon radiation from biological tissue. To avoid confusion with the z. B. from fireflies known and openly visible bioluminescence excluded he called ultra-weak biological radiation "emission of bio-photons". Popp measured the spectrum of this radiation and found wavelengths between 200 and 800 nm with a continuous distribution, i.e. roughly in the range of visible light (380 to 710 nm). However, the measured intensities were only a few to a few hundred quanta per second and per square centimeter of surface. Popp suspected that this weak radiation, like laser light, is still coherent . So far, theoretical and experimental studies are available on the coherence hypothesis.

In general, the examination of weak electromagnetic radiation emitted by living beings or biological material forms a part of biophotonics . In today's parlance, this term describes the connection between biology and photonics , including all types of medical examination and healing methods and imaging processes on an optical basis.


All objects, whether biological or not, emit thermal radiation , depending on their temperature . This radiation was taken into account and subtracted from the measurements mentioned above. Since the examined cells do not contain any special luminescent substances ( luciferins or the like), the examined radiation does not belong to the classic bioluminescence , which is many times more intense than the measured "biophoton radiation".

According to Popp, the weak emission that goes beyond the black body radiation is possibly partly determined by the condition of the cells. According to the prevailing opinion, the emission of photons is based on the known chemical reactions in the context of metabolism, e.g. B. the oxidative metabolism. It is unclear whether light quanta can form standing waves in cells, which interact with the cell organelles in order to influence metabolic functions.


The view of some representatives of alternative medicine that biophotons have a physiological meaning in the sense of an influence on health has so far not found approval among biologists and physiologists, but it does in esotericism and in parts of alternative medicine. There are no clinical studies that provide evidence of its effectiveness in terms of health.

The radiation can be physically detected using highly sensitive photon detectors. Since this measurement can only record the emitted photons , it is not possible to draw any direct conclusions about the radiation conditions in the cells. Critics of this theory point out that in particular the postulated coherence of the photons cannot be proven.

In the hypotheses about the health effects of biophotons, critics see an attempt to revive vitalism , a concept that was abandoned in biology and medicine during the 19th century. Instead of the immaterial life forces of conventional vitalism, a pseudo-scientific neovitalism is now being propagated. On the one hand, this explains the distance between established biological and medical science and claims about biophotons, and on the other hand, the great interest shown by some representatives of alternative medicine .

Individual evidence

  1. Laura Colli, Ugo Facchini: Light emission by germinating plants , Il Nuovo Cimento, Vol. 12, 1954, pp. 150-153, doi : 10.1007 / BF02820374 , as a "letter to the editors" (no peer review ).
  2. L. Colli et al .: Further measurements on the bioluminescence of the seedlings , Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Vol. 11, 1955, pp. 479-481, doi : 10.1007 / BF02166829 , as a short message (no peer review).
  3. Metcalf, WS & Quick ends, TI (1967): Mitogenetic radiation. In: Nature. Vol. 216, No. 5111, pp. 169-170. PMID 4862078 doi : 10.1038 / 216169a0
  4. ^ FA Popp & KH Li (1993): Hyberbolic Relaxation as a Sufficient Condition of a Fully Coherent Ergodic Field. In: International Journal of Theoretical Physics. Vol. 32, pp. 1573-1583.
  5. ^ FA Popp & Y. Yan (2002): Delayed luminescence of biological systems in terms of coherent states. In: Physics Letters A. Vol. 293, pp. 93-97.
  6. ^ FA Popp, JJ Chang, A. Herzog, Z. Yan & Y. Yan (2002): Evidence of non-classical (squeezed) light in biological systems. In: Physics Letters A. Vol. 293, pp. 98-102.


  • FA Popp, Q. Gu and KH Li: Biophoton emission. Mod. Phys. Lett. B Vol. 21 & 22 (1994) pp 1269-1296
  • Marco Bischof : Biophotons: The light in our cells, Frankfurt / M. 2008, 14th edition ISBN 3-86150-095-7
  • Fritz-Albert Popp: The message of food. Our food in a new perspective ISBN 3-596-11459-4
  • Fritz-Albert Popp: Biology of Light. Basics of ultra-weak cell radiation ISBN 3-8263-2692-X
  • L.Beloussov and FAPopp (eds.): Biophotonics. Proc.Int.Conf.Moscow State University 1994, Bioinform-Services, Russia 1995.
  • JJChang, J. Fisch and FAPopp (eds.), Biophysics: Biophotonics. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht-Boston-London 2003.
  • FAPopp and L.Beloussov (eds.): Integrative Biophysics: Biophotonics, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht-Boston-London 2003.
  • X.Shen and R.van Wijk (eds.): Biophotons and Biophotonics. Springer, Berlin-New York, 2004.
  • Jan Berndorff: Life shines , in: natur + kosmos 2004, no. 7, pp. 22–30.

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