The term biophotonics denotes a combination of biology and photonics, with photonics being the science and technology of generation, manipulation, and detection of photons, quantum units of light. Photonics is related to electronics in that it is believed that photons will play a similar central role in future information technology as electrons do today.

Biophotonics can also be described as the "development and application of optical techniques, particularly imaging, to the study of biological molecules, cells and tissue". One of the main benefits of using optical techniques which make up biophotonics is that they preserve the integrity of the biological cells being examined.

Biophotonics has therefore become the established general term for all techniques that deal with the interaction between biological items and photons. This refers to emission, detection, absorption, reflection, modification, and creation of radiation from biomolecular, cells, tissues, organisms and biomaterials. Areas of application are life science, medicine, agriculture, and environmental science. Similar to the differentiation between "electric" and "electronics" a difference can be made between applications, which use light mainly to transfer energy via light (like Therapy or surgery) and applications which excite matter via light and transfer information back to the operator (like diagnostics). In most cases the term biophotonics is only referred to the second case.

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ICFO - Focus Programs - Light For Health
... ICFO conducts research and development at the cutting-edge of biophotonics and nanophotonics, with a special focus on imaging modalities and techniques that aim at continuously breaking the limits ... and corporations alike, acting as the local BioPhotonics Hub ... ICFO organises the ‘Light for Health’ event, which offers the region’s BioPhotonics community a unique opportunity to be brought closer together ...