nLab quantum biology



Quantum systems

quantum logic

quantum physics

quantum probability theoryobservables and states

quantum information

quantum computation


quantum algorithms:

quantum sensing

quantum communication



The field of quantum biology studies non-trivial effects of quantum mechanics in biological systems, typically in molecular biology.

To the extent that biology is based on chemistry it is ultimately based on quantum chemistry. But since biological systems are typically “warm” and “wet” relative to the cold and evacuated experimental setups in which quantum effects are usually seen and studied, quantum effects beyond those that account for the existence of molecules etc. in the first place have been thought and argued to be generally negligible in biology. But there have been arguments that some key mechanisms in biology might rely on macroscopic quantum coherence/quantum superposition in a crucial way.

This includes notably photosynthesis?, which has been argued to depend, if not qualitatively at least quantitatively, on macroscopic quantum entanglement/quantum superposition [Sarovar et al. 2010]. However, meanwhile this claim seems to have been conclusively dismissed [cf. Duan et al. 2017, Cao et al. 2020]

Very speculative but prominently promoted by mathematician Roger Penrose, based on joint work with Stuart Hameroff, is the idea that macroscopic quantum superposition in microtubules? inside neurons? is the source of the still mostly mysterious characteristic 40Hz? oscillations seen in brain EEG?s. (In fact, Penrose goes much further and suggests that collapse of this superposition by quantum gravity-effects is a source of non-computability in physics and also somehow the source of consciousness in biology, see at orch OR for further pointers on this).


The suggestion that quantum biology is relevant for fundamentally understanding life goes back all the way to


Specifically on the existence and relevance – or not – of non-negligible coherent quantum entanglement in photosynthesis:

An argument in favour of quantum biology which claims that cellular information processing must employ quantum coherence as a resource for reversibility in order to maintain a biologically reasonable free energy? budget:

Last revised on October 12, 2023 at 12:04:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.