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Author(s) of the publication: Oleg BETSKY, Natalia LEBEDEVA

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by Oleg BETSKY, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), laboratory head, Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, Russian Academy of Sciences; Natalia LEBEDEVA, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), leading researcher, Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Russian Academy of Sciences

Present-day civilization can hardly do without radio, television, Internet, cellular telephones and communication satellites. Such wonderful, breakthrough achievements have become possible thanks to discoveries made more than a century ago by Michael Faraday, James Maxwell, Heinrich Hertz, Alexander Popov, Guglielmo Marconi... This applies to the predictions, experimental research and practical use of electromagnetic waves. Belonging to the noncondensed (field) forms of matter, they have always been present on earth. Even the beginnings of life on Earth and evolution of life on our planet would have been impossible without such waves. Their main natural source is the Sun. However, humanity has added also artificial, technogenic forms of radiation. How all these various waves and fields affect biological systems - this question has remained obscure for a long time.


Electromagnetic radiation, as a physical factor of the environment, impacts living organisms through what we call biotropic parameters (frequency, intensity and form of signal; localization, exposition, gradient and vector). If only one of these parameters is changed (with the others remaining constant), the response of biological systems will be substantially different, too. This natural spectrum must have played some role in biological evolution and impacted vital activity processes. Now, the effect of the technogenic factor, i.e. mancaused emissions, had intensified towards the close of the 20th century to attain global implications.

Electromagnetic waves - from the standard broadcast band (1000 - 1 m), microwave and superhigh frequency (SHF) band (100 cm - 0.1 mm), optical frequency band (100 mkm - 10 nm) down to the range of ionizing radiation (10 - 0.0001 nm) - are being widely used in radio communication, radiolocation and radar, television (in technical areas) and also, in biology and medicine. But while X-ray radiation has been "geared to peaceful purposes" since the end of the 19th cen-

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Broadcast band

Microwave band (MW)

λ >1000 m

λ = 100 - 1000 m

λ = 10 - 100 m

λ = 1 - 10 m

λ = 10 - 100 cm

λ = 1 - 10 cm

λ = 1 - 10 mm

λ = 0.1 - 1 mm

Very long waves

Long waves

Medium waves

Short waves

Decimetric waves

Centimetric waves

Millimetric waves

Submillimetri waves

This band has been long and widely used in various radio-engineering setups for data transmission (radio, television, etc.). Hence the name, "broadcast" band. Some of its segments are used in medical devices.

The technical uses of the MW band moved into turbulent development in the latter half of the 20th century with the progress of radar, relay (microwave) radio links, satellite communication systems, control systems, mobile telephones, etc. MW electronic instruments are applied in medical apparatuses used for diagnostics and treatment purposes.

Electromagnetic waves scale.

tury, the millimetric waves (MM waves), the subject-matter of our discussion, were adopted in practice only as late as the 1960s.

These waves are in a 10 to 1 mm band, which corresponds to extremely high frequencies (EHF) from 30 to 300 GHz. The honor of mastering the MM band largely belongs to our Russian scientists who have developed wide-band voltaged-tuned oscillators. Vacuum back-wave tubes (BWT-0), known also as traveling-wave tubes, are now in use. They have been developed by the leading Research institute of Electronic Industry of the USSR - NII-160 (subsequently, the R&D enterprise ISTOK, today the Federal R&D Company ISTOK in Fryazino near Moscow). Foremost experts in SHF electronics were involved in this work, such as Academician Nikolai Devyatkov and Professor Mikhail Golant. The original design and production technology of BWT-0, together with a set of technical parameters make our vacuum tubes of this class the world's best. Using a dozen tubes like that tuned to medium-wave frequencies, it becomes possible to cover all the millimeter- and part of the neighboring submillimeterwave bands. The input power of these oscillators is hundreds of milliwatts near the long-wave band edge, with one- and two-digit milliwatt values for the short-wave band edge.

Devices of the MM band have found application in "classical", state-of-the-art areas like radiolocation (radar), radio navigation, radio communication, radiospectroscopy, and so on. Their relatively new application domains include local information networks (indoor and out-of-door), radiovision systems as well as remote-control techniques of environmental sounding.

Alexander Presman, a Moscow biophysicist, published his book Electromagnetic Fields and Living Nature (Moscow, 1968) as good as simultaneously with the first publications in this country on the development of effective sources of electromagnetic oscillations in the EHF band and the use of these low-intensity waves in biology and medicine. Dr. Presman postulated the possibility of action that low- or nonthermalintensity electromagnetic fields might exert on biological systems: in this context such action could amount to information signals. Another innovative postulate of his was bold enough for those days - namely that biological effects as a response to the action of low-intensity fields were proper only to highly organized objects on the macromolecular level and higher up. Subsequently this idea was proved by experimental evidence and further developed in his new book Organization of the Biosphere and Its Cosmic Links (Moscow, 1997), with the key idea boiling down to the following: an electromagnetic field as carrier of controlling signals was playing the chief role in the self- and spatial (three-dimensional) organization of living nature.

Acad. Devyatkov guided the pioneering works in our country both on millimetric radiation and on its spin-offs in biology and medicine. It is in this very frequency band that fundamental results were first obtained on the role of electromagnetic oscillations as information signals used by the organism in its vital activity processes. Thus a new research discipline came into being at the junction of radioelectronics, biophysics, medicine and as a sequel, an alternative method of treating diseases of man and animals - millimetric, or extremely high-frequency therapy.

Let us consider in brief the chief physical characteristics of MM waves. They are assigned to nonionizing emissions. In this wave band an energy quantum (hv) is smaller than the energy of the thermal motion of atoms or molecules kT. For a 1 mm wave, hv = 1.17 · 10-3 eV, while kT = 2.53 · 10-2 eV (for room temperature). The quantum energy in the

Pages. 14

Optical band

Ionizing radiation band

λ = 100 - 0.76 μm

λ = 0.76 - 0.4 μm

λ = 400 - 10 nm

λ = 10 - 0.01 nm

λ = 0.01 - 0.0001 nm

Infrared radiation (IR)

Visible radiation (light)

Ultraviolet radiation



These kinds of radiations are of much interest as spin-offs in medicine, especially with the appearance of lasers in the IR, visible and UV bands of the spectrum, and also with the appearance of xenon emitters and with the upgrading of mercury lamps.

Ionizing emissions are the most promising kinds of electromagnetic radiation which were adopted in medicine back in the late 19th century for diagnostics and treatment of malignancies.

EHF wave band is much lower than the energies of electronic transitions (1 - 20 eV), activation* (-0.2 eV), and also of molecular oscillation (10-2 ... 10-1 eV) and hydrogen bonds (2 · 10-2 ... 10-1 eV). But the EHF quantum energy is higher than the rotation energy of molecules around their bonds (10-4 ...10-3 eV), the energy of Cooper pairs** in superconductivity (10-6 ...10-4 eV) and the energy of magnetic ordering (10-8 ... 10-4 eV). Consequently, MM waves can impact the degree of rotational freedom of molecules and their conformational states, i.e. spatial (three-dimensional) forms.


The biological significance of millimetric waves is largely due to the peculiarities of their interaction with water and its solutions, a factor playing a key role in the biophysical mechanism of action by low-intensity electromagnetic waves on living systems.

Water is the most widespread substance on earth and an enigma of the universe. The German physiologist Dubois Raymond (1818 - 1896) is the author of this dictum: "Life Is Animated Water". In the liquid and vaporous states - and in solutions as well - it is the most vigorous absorber of millimetric waves. A water layer of 1 mm decreases EHF radiation about a hundredfold at wavelength 8 mm, and 10,000-fold - at 2 mm. The effect of intensive absorption of these waves in the atmosphere prodded Acad. Devyatkov to make an intuitive conclusion about the possible biological implication of millimetric waves. The gist of his reasoning is as follows. If the atmosphere shields the terrestrial surface against cosmic rays in the absence of artificial generators of MM waves, nature should have "selected" this very band for controlling or coordinating intercellular interactions in living systems. The idea caught on and found both theoretical and experimental proof. At any rate it provided an impulse for interdisciplinary research at the boundaries of biophysics and electronics, biology and radio engineering, biotechnology and electrodynamics. Thus, in the mid-1960s the German physicist Herbert Frolich demonstrated that the plasma membrane of a living cell - as a whole or in part - makes oscillatory motions in a frequency band corresponding to millimetric and submillimetric waves. Lately new data have been obtained on the role of water and its solutions in the instrumentation of MM biological mechanisms. Medical doctors who use them for therapeutic purposes have seen that the curative effect may be achieved if water is pre-treated with low-intensity MM waves. That is, after an MM generator has been switched off, the thus irradiated water can carry on its function for as long as four weeks. This characteristic was experimentally confirmed by research teams at the RAS Institute of Biophysics of the Cell (under Dr. Yevgeni Fesenko, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of

* Activation energy - the lowest energy for a particle (atom, ion, radical) to enter into a chemical reaction. One of the basic values for the reaction rate (velocity) at a particular temperature. - Ed.

** Cooper pairs - and association of free electrons in metal into pairs as a result of their attraction caused by oscillations of ions in a crystal lattice; this phenomenon is responsible for superconductivity. - Ed.

Pages. 15

Sciences) and the Chair of Radio-physics of the Department of Physics at M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (under Dr. Anatoly Sukhomkov). Dr. Sukhorukov's team, studying excitation of metastable states on the energy diagram of water structures, has proved that the physical mechanism of water's "memory' is connected with a net of hydrogen bonds: if we take two water molecules, a hydrogen atom between two atoms of oxygen (O2 ) may come closer either to one or to the other atom of O2 . That is either with the absorption of MM radiation energy quantum or with its emission. The "memory" effect is realized if the state of excitation keeps on for some space of time. In water clusters (H2 O) at n = 50 - 60 the frequencies of proton transitions across potential barriers are within the millimeter and submillimeter bands, which accounts for the resonance nature of MM absorption by these systems. We may thus assume that water and water solutions will always contain clusters capable of absorbing MM energy quanta by the same mechanism and "giving them off' much later. Hence the conclusion: the molecular associates of water can keep biological (biochemical) activity even after irradiation, a characteristic underlying the "memory" effect.


The specific (e.g. frequency-dependent) effect of electromagnetic fields on biological objects comes into play mostly at low-intensity (nonthermal) radiation. The boundary separating it from thermal radiation is expressed by the quantity 10 mW/cm2 . Among low-intensity signals of the utmost interest to us are those whose power is comparable to background radiation. Here are just a few figures to visualize what magnitudes we are dealing with. In the millimetric band the wavelength of solar radiation above the earth surface is as high as 10-12mW/cm2 , or tenfold as much as the atmosphere's thermal radiation. For the human body this indicator in the millimetric band is about 1014 mW/cm2 .

As to the effect of weak electromagnetic oscillations on biological objects, the phenomenon of informational interaction presupposes the absence of a thermal effect. An information signal ought to be weak, or of low intensity, i.e. typical of radio-engineering systems of data communication in the analog or digital mode. Weak (information) signals are now becoming particularly important, what with rigorous ecological standards and permissible radiation levels for workers involved with electromagnetic oscillations or their aftereffects. The works of Dr. Elena Burlakova (biologist) et al.*

See: E. Burlakova, "Ultra-Small Doses: Are They Good or Bad?", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1995. - Ed.

Pages. 16

(N. M. Emanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics, RAS) have spurred the interest in the problem. Demonstrating the therapeutic activity of medicinal preparations at extremely low concentrations (hundredth and thousandth fractions of what is common in pharmaceutical practice!), the authors have formulated a fundamental principle about the "effect" (paradox) of extremely low (ultra-small) doses.

We know of several physical mechanisms enabling biological systems to "pick" weak signals. Let us consider some of them with reference to electromagnetic waves in the millimeter band.

New data have been obtained in the last few years to expand our knowledge of concepts now in wide use in the physics of living systems: coherence, cumulativeness, stochastic resonance, synergetics, and so forth. Here again we should point to Herbert Frolich's works on coherent oscillations of the plasma membrane of the cell or some of its fragments, and to the works of Dr. Ilya Prigozhin (Nobel Prize, 1977), a visiting researcher in Belgium, on open nonequilibrium systems which also include living objects.

The key idea about the sensitivity of bio-objects to weak electromagnetic fields is consistent with the postulate: that for a variety of causes MM waves are "on the same wavelength with" living matter and thus can be employed for controlling basic physiological functions. There is every ground to assume that coherent oscillations, according to Frolich, and acoustic-electric oscillations in plasma membranes of the cell are tantamount to one and the same physical phenomenon.

The power of electromagnetic oscillations emitted by the electric dipoles of the cell plasma membrane is equal to about 10-23 W in a narrow frequency band. This is a significant value so far as cells are concerned and consequently, quite in keeping with the principle of reciprocity, they must be sensitive to external emissions as weak as that.

A physical phenomenon detected about twenty years ago has offered a revealing insight into the mechanism underlying the effect of weak signals on biological systems. This is a stochastic resonance (also known in radio engineering as a stochastic filtering) effect. It was found experimentally in the early 1980s that sources of noise in nonlinear dynamic systems can produce essentially new functional modes otherwise not realized in the absence of noise. In this case noise plays a "positive" role by enhancing the degree of orderliness or improving the performance characteristics of a system - it contributes to the formation of more regular structures and optimizes the signal/noise ratio. But proceeding from the standard, canonical viewpoint, experts have always condemned noise as a hazard that downgrades the characteristics of dynamic systems.

Many experiments conducted on various physical objects show that the stochastic resonance effect is an essential, hitherto unknown phenomenon realized in nonlinear dynamic systems. The very concept of this phenomenon may be quite helpful in resolving the perennial dispute among biophysicists: is it possible to explain in cogent terms the very possibility of low-intensity MM waves acting on biological systems? The answer is explicit: Yes, it is. Besides, the effect of stochastic resonance elucidates the mechanisms of high sensitivity of living systems to electromagnetic waves both in the millimeter and in other bands. This effect can also help interpret the evolutionally adopted capability of living organisms to collect important information from the environment through noises of different physical nature.

Years ago Dr. Presman drew attention to the fact that sensitivity to external electromagnetic fields is the highest in integral organism, it is far lower in isolated cells and organs, and the lowest in solutions of macro-molecules. On one hand, this comes from the important role of electromagnetic fields (including those in the millimeter band) in vital activity processes, when cells "speak" the language of MM waves. And on the other hand, we can explain the phenomenon from a standpoint of spatial (three-dimensional) organization of biological structures, for factuality (self-similitude) is proper to them. That is to say, an object is composed of a large number of "replicas" of its own self, expressed if a fractal or its sites are viewed on different scales. It is about the same if we saw under a microscope the self-

Pages. 17

same object scaled up at sequential discrete magnification but observed practically identical figures all along. Self-similitude is intrinsic to countless phenomena in the world we live in. But the steady performance of complex hierarchically ordered systems is ensured by mutual subordination of structures of different spatial scales, though often of similar topology, which causes the vertical (upstream) organization of bio-objects to acquire fractal characteristics at all hierarchical levels.

By gaining a better understanding of the role of fractal structures in biological processes, we shall come to address a new kind of informational interaction in nature, the fractal interaction, or the passing of biologically significant information in processes of different temporal and spatial scale levels conditioned by their similarity alone.


By now a large body of experimental and theoretical data has been amassed on the biological effects of MM waves. Thus, Herbert Frolich has demonstrated: the coherent oscillations in the whole membrane and its sites in a frequency band corresponding to the EHF range on the electromagnetic waves scale may appear and hold out due to metabolism. In the opinion of Drs Devyatkov, Golant and Betsky (monograph Millimeter Waves and Their Role in Vital Activity Processes; Moscow, 1991), these oscillations are of acoustic-electric origin. They are designed to stimulate the transport of water and various substances across the cell membrane and thus keep it in the active state. Thereupon researchers studying problems of EHF therapy came to the conclusion that in the event of a disease natural oscillations in the membrane are disturbed and attenuate, while radiation from a therapeutic apparatus comes in good stead by imitating them. This helps the membrane restore its functions and, as a result, the organism makes a recovery.

MM waves have an active effect on vital activity processes - for instance, by causing bacteria to produce biologically active substances; this has found practical applications in biotechnologies (we shall deal with the matter below).

The nucleotide adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a universal source of energy in a living cell. The stimulation of its synthesis through MM waves is vital to the physiology of organisms, a phenomenon confirmed indirectly in clinical practice and experiments. Standard experiments show: MM waves trigger a complex convective motion in interand intracellular fluid, which facilitates its diffusion near the cells and activates the transfer of substances and electric charges across cell membranes. Something else, too: the dehydration of protein molecule impairs their performance by passing protein from a functionally active to a passive state (pathology). But EHF radiation helps rehabilitate the hydration rate.

The implication of the higher nervous system in the effects of low-intensity MM waves on the human organism was a subject investigated in the RAS Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology. As many as 80 percent of healthy test-subjects were able to reliably identify the impact of these waves, with sensory asymmetry of perception exhibited thereby. More than that, pain receptors ("nociceptors") and mechanoreceptors of the central nervous system responded to the action realized largely with the participation of the nonspecific somatosensory system linked in practical terms with all parts of the cerebral cortex. And last, this radiation also acted on the spatial-temporal organization of the brain biopotentials by touching off a nonspecific activation in the cortex whereby its tonus was increased.


Back in the early 1970s a program was adopted for clinical uses of MM waves at some of our medical centers with the object of treating various deseases. The initiative that came from Acad. Devyatkov was upheld by the USSR Ministry of Public Health. This method has been tested at the Oncological Research Center of the Russian Academy of Medicine (RAM), the Central Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics of the Russian Federation's Public Health Ministry, in the clinics of the I. M. Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, Russian State Medical University, the Moscow Stomatological Institute, the P. A. Hertzen Moscow Oncological Institute... Medical doctors confirmed the high effectiveness of therapy suggested for cardiovascular diseases (persistent and nonpersistent stenocardia, or angina pectoris; hypertension, myocardial infarction); neurological diseases (pain syndromes, neuritis, radiculitis, osteochondrosis); urological cases (pyelonephritis, impotence, prostatitis); gynecological disorders (adnexitis, endometritis, cervical erosion); skin diseases (neurodermites, including psoriasis and acne); gastroenterological maladies (stomach and duodenal ulcers, hepatitis, cholecystopancreatites); stomatological (parodontosis, parodontitis, certain kinds of stomatites and periostites) and oncological diseases - for protecting the hematopoietic (blood-making) system and eliminating the side-effects of chemotherapy. The clinical practice of thirty years attests to the absence of remote aftereffects of our method. This therapy agrees well with other procedures (medication, physiotherapy) and is now widely used both in treatment and prevention. Such is the practical result of the new research line - millimetric electromagnetobiology. In 1991 MM therapy was approved by the RF Public Health Ministry for practical uses at medical institutions. In these last decades dozens of therapeutic apparatuses have been developed, supplied with appropriate recommendations for users. And now the just award: in 2000 the collective of sci-

Pages. 18

entists and engineers with Acad. Devyatkov at the head merited a RF State Prize in science and engineering ("For the development and practical application of apparatuses in treatment and functional diagnostics with the use of low-intensity electromagnetic oscillations in the millimeter wave band").


Biotechnology is on the cutting edge of world science and economics in the 21st century (together with nanotechnology and electronics, too). Clearly, electromagnetic fields are bound to upgrade the efficiency of many biotechnological processes. There is watertight experimental evidence: MM waves energize the vital activity of microorganisms, including proliferation (cell division), enzymic synthesis, the growth and output rate of biomass.

These waves hold out good promise in photobiotechnology as well. In their vital activity photosynthetic, autotrophic organisms make do with cheap natural sources of energy, and thus have great advantages over conventional heterotrophic microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, etc. The spirulina blue-green alga (Spirulina platensis), a producer of nutrient food and fodder protein as well as biologically active compounds, is considerably valued. It contains about 60 to 70 percent of dry substance in protein biomass, or nearly twice as much as soya beans do, and is enriched with amino acids.

Many experiments carried out at the Department of Biology of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University jointly with the RAS Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics over the past 15 years testify that MM waves have a stimulating effect on microalgae. For instance, given an optimal set of biotropic parameters of low-intensity oscillations the output of spirulina biomass was up by 250 percent compared with the control group. Meanwhile in standard (chemical) techniques of stimulation the increase was not above 25 - 30 percent.

There is evidence of the stimulating action of MM waves on the germinating capacity and yields of garden crops. This radiation is being ever widely used in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine for treating mastitis in cows and hogs, bronchopneumonia in calves, the acute serous inflammation of the hock and other horse diseases.

The RAS Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, and the JSC "MTA-EHF" have designed a microminiature EHF generator. Inserted into a mobile telephone handset, it is switched on with the beginning of talk and irradiates active points on the floor of the auricle. The oscillator in the handset thus redresses the negative effects of the mobile phone's electromagnetic field. By now in Russia there are more than 100,000 apparatuses for MM therapy and several thousand competent medical doctors. Over 3,500 medical consulting-rooms are at work, where about 2,500,000 patients have been treated. Meanwhile our biophysicists, physiologists and medics keep up their scientific search. Now high hopes are pinned on the terahertz (1012) band, THz, which takes in electromagnetic radiation from the high-frequency region of EHF down to infrared (IR) bands. Promising results are on hand in treating cardiovascular diseases and burns.


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Oleg BETSKY, Natalia LEBEDEVA, MILLIMETER WAVES AND LIVING SYSTEMS // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 27.09.2018. URL: (date of access: 06.12.2021).

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