Frohlich Coherence
The Frohlich effect is a paradigm of how quantum coherence can exist and play a physical role at biological scales.

Herbert Frohlich, one of the great pioneers in superstate physics, described a model of a system of coupled molecular oscillators in a heat bath, supplied with energy at a constant rate. When this rate exceeds a certain threshold then a condensation of the whole system of oscillators takes place into one giant dipole mode, similar to Bose-Einstein condensation. A coherent, nonlocal order emerges.

Because this effect takes place far from equilibrium, Frohlich coherence is in that sense related to the principles underlying the laser (another pumped, coherent system).

So what can this coherence accomplish? Frohlich emphasized the lossless transmission of energy from one "mode" to another...

How does it work?

Coherence is a matter of phase relationships, which are readily destroyed by almost any perturbation. For this reason superconducting and superfluid states of matter exist only in the relative absence of thermal agitation. However, such states in some sense exhibit only the simplest kind of phase relationships, and in particular ones which are coupled to the environment -

On the other hand, complex dynamical systems have subtle internal phase relationships, and in some cases the nature of the dynamics protects these relationships through feedback, amplification, etc., especially in the presence of a supply of energy.

Here is another kind of coherent structure, in what must be an infinite hierarchy of increasing complexity and subtlety: in complex dynamical spaces many kinds of coherence are possible...

Is the effect physically significant?

Yes. In such cases the physical dynamics which follow from quantum coherence can assume a significant role....


H. Frohlich, Long Range Coherence and Energy Storage in Biological Systems, Int. J. Quantum Chem., v.II, 641-649 (1968)

Biological systems are expected to have a branch of longitudinal electric modes in a frequency region between 10^11 and 10^12 per second... In section 2 it is shown quite generally that if energy is supplied above a certain mean rate to such a branch, then a steady state will be reached in which a single mode of this branch is very strongly excited. The supplied energy is thus not completely thermalized but stored in a highly ordered fashion. This order expresses itself in long-range phase correlations; the phenomenon has considerable similarity with the low temperature condensation of a Bose gas...

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