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The Microwave Processing of Foods

The Microwave Processing of Foods

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The Microwave Processing of Foods

990 pagine
10 ore
Nov 1, 2016


The Microwave Processing of Foods, Second Edition, has been updated and extended to include the many developments that have taken place over the past 10 years. Including new chapters on microwave assisted frying, microwave assisted microbial inactivation, microwave assisted disinfestation, this book continues to provide the basic principles for microwave technology, while also presenting current and emerging research trends for future use development. Led by an international team of experts, this book will serve as a practical guide for those interested in applying microwave technology.

  • Provides thoroughly up-to-date information on the basics of microwaves and microwave heating
  • Discusses the main factors for the successful application of microwaves and the main problems that may arise
  • Includes current and potential future applications for real-world application as well as new research and advances
  • Includes new chapters on microwave-assisted frying, microbial inactivation, and disinfestation
Nov 1, 2016

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The Microwave Processing of Foods - Elsevier Science



Introducing microwave-assisted processing of food

Fundamentals of the technology

M. Regier¹, K. Knoerzer² and H. Schubert³,    ¹Trier University of Applied Sciences, Trier, Germany,    ²CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Melbourne, VIC, Australia,    ³Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany


In this chapter, microwaves are introduced as a type of electromagnetic waves of frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. The technical microwaves used for processing are regulated by the ISM bands and by certain maximum emission levels and exposure limits of humans. Theoretical aspects of the electromagnetic theory, starting from Maxwell’s and the constitutive material equations, over the general wave equations to exemplary solutions like the plane wave, the exponentially damped wave and Fresnel’s reflection formulas are discussed. Finally, the general configuration and operation of microwave processing systems, consisting of a microwave source (still in most cases the magnetron), a waveguide and an applicator are presented.


Microwave basics; electromagnetic waves; microwave processing systems; microwave source

1.1 Introduction

The following chapter covers the fundamentals of microwaves, the corresponding physical theory, as well as some general remarks and considerations on the setup of microwave applications. First, the definition of frequency and wavelength ranges, and legislative regulations of frequency bands are discussed. Then, the basic equations, i.e., Maxwell’s equations and the equations describing the interaction of electromagnetic waves with matter, are introduced. Starting with these basics, the wave equation and some exemplary solutions are derived, and the important concept of the penetration depth and power absorption, which is useful for the estimation of thermal microwave–matter interaction, can be introduced. After covering the general setup and configuration of microwave applications, consisting of microwave sources, waveguides, and applicators, the chapter is completed by useful links to further literature on this topic.

1.2 Physical definitions and legislative regulations

1.2.1 Definition

Microwaves are electromagnetic waves within a frequency band of 300 MHz to 300 GHz. In the electromagnetic spectrum (Fig. 1.1), the microwaves are located between the radio frequency range at lower frequencies and by infrared and visible light at higher frequencies. Thus, microwaves are part of the spectrum covering nonionizing radiation.

Figure 1.1 Electromagnetic spectrum. Additionally, the two most frequently used microwave frequency bands (at 915 and 2450 MHz) are depicted.

Through Eq. (1.1), the frequency f is linked with the speed of light c to a corresponding wavelength λ.


In this case, the speed of light, as well as the wavelength within matter, is dependent on the material. For the speed of light in vacuum (c0≈3×10⁸ m/s), the corresponding wavelength of microwaves is in the range between 1 m and 1 mm, hence, the term microwaves is somewhat misleading. Their name rather refers to their wavelength within the matter, where it can be in the micrometer range, indeed.

1.2.2 Regulations—ISM bands ISM bands

As already shown in Fig. 1.1, the frequency range of microwaves is adjacent to the range of radio frequencies, which is primarily used for television and radio broadcast. However, also the microwave frequency range is used for telecommunication, such as mobile phones, wireless networks, and radar. In order to prevent interference problems, certain frequency bands are reserved for industrial, scientific, and medical (so-called ISM) applications, where a certain radiation level has to be tolerated by other applications (e.g., communication devices). In the range of microwaves, the ISM bands are located at 433, 915, 2450, and 5800 MHz, whereby the first is not commonly used, the second is not generally permitted in continental Europe and Australia. Outside of the permitted frequency range, leakage is very restricted.

Whereas 915 MHz has some considerable advantages for industrial applications, domestic microwave ovens only utilize a frequency of 2450 MHz. Safety regulations

Apart from the regulations concerning interference, there are two further types of safety regulations:

1. the regulation concerning the maximum exposure or absorption of a human, working in a microwave environment;

2. the regulation concerning the maximum emission or leakage of the microwave equipment.


The exposure limits for humans is based on the estimation of thermal effects that microwaves can cause in the human body. Particularly sensitive organs, such as the eye, with a limited thermal balancing possibility and/or geometric focusing effects are taken into account.

Thus, the limit for human exposure, which is generally considered to be safe, is at a level of 1 mW/cm² body surface in most countries. As is the case for ionizing radiation, also for microwaves it becomes common to express the exposure or absorption by humans through the value of the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is defined as the quotient of the incident power and body weight. For microwaves, the International Commisson on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP, 1998; IRPA, 1988) recommends a value for the SAR to be set to 0.4 W/kg.


The maximum emission of a microwave equipment is limited to a value of 5 mW/cm² measured at a distance of 5 cm from the point where the leakage has the maximum level. Thus, the permissible leakage level is higher than the maximum exposure limit. However, the power density of nonfocused radiation, which is generally the case for leakage, decreases proportional to the inversed square of the distance from the source. So a leakage, which just manages to stay in the limits of 5 mW/cm² at a distance of 5 cm, is below the maximum exposure limit of 1 mW/cm² already at a distance of 11.2 cm.

1.3 Electromagnetic theory

1.3.1 Maxwell’s and constitutive equations

As already mentioned above, microwaves are electromagnetic waves, which can be described by Maxwell’s Eqs. (1.2–1.5):





The first and third Eqs. (1.2 and 1.4) describe the source of an electric field (ρ) and that no magnetic monopole as source for the magnetic field can exist. On the other hand, Eqs. (1.3 and 1.5) show the coupling between electric and magnetic fields.

The interaction of electromagnetism with matter is included through the material equations, also referred to as constitutive relations (Eqs. 1.6–1.8), where the permittivity or dielectric constant ε ), the conductivity σ, and the permeability μ ) describe their behavior (see also Chapter 2: Microwave heating and the dielectric properties of foods). The zero indexed values describe the respective values in vacuum, so that ε and μ are relative values.




In general, all these material parameters can be complex tensors (with directional dependent behavior). In the case of food substances, some simplifications are possible for most practical uses: since food behaves nonmagnetically, the relative permeability can be set to μ=1 and the permittivity tensor can be reduced to a complex constant with real (ε′) and imaginary part (ε″), which may include the conductivity σ (see Chapter 2: Microwave heating and the dielectric properties of foods).

1.3.2 Wave equations and boundary conditions

The Maxwell’s equations cover all aspects of electromagnetism. In order to describe the more specific theme of electromagnetic waves, the corresponding wave equations (for the electric or the magnetic field) can be easily derived, starting from Maxwell’s equations, with the simplifications of no charge (ρ). The derivation is shown here only for the electric field; however, it can be easily transferred to the magnetic field:

) on Eq. (1.3) yields Eq. (1.9):


Using the constitutive equation for the magnetic field Eq. (1.7), this can be transformed to Eq. (1.10), assuming the permeability μ to be constant and introducing Eq. (1.5):


Utilizing the material equation for the electric field , one gets the following well-known wave Eq. (1.11):



Comparing this wave Eq. (1.11) with the standard wave equation, one can infer that here the wave velocity is defined by Eq. (1.12):


The nature of possible solutions of Eq. (1.11) can be illustrated, considering the case of a so-called linearly polarized plane wave. Linearly polarized means that, for example, the electric field consists of only one component, e.g., in the z-direction Ez. If this component only depends on the one local coordinate, e.g., x (and the time), the wave is called a plane wave. If additionally the material parameters are frequency independent, Eq. (1.11) then reduces to


solve this equation. Often used as solutions also for the more complex case Eq. (1.11) are time harmonic functions Eq. (1.14):


is the wave vector pointing to the direction of propagation with its absolute value defined as


, the circular frequency of the wave.

It should be noted that the separate wave equations for the electric and the magnetic field cannot completely replace Maxwell’s equations. Instead, further conditions, listed in Table 1.1, show the dependency between the magnetic and the electric field, which are not independent of each other.

Table 1.1

Dependency between magnetic and electric fields

in materials) is included. To include absorption within matter, a complex permittivity and with this a complex wave vector has to be introduced.

When additionally a finite conductivity σ in flows, instead of the simple wave Eq. (1.11), the expanded Eq. (1.11a) has to be used:


Taking time harmonic functions for the electric field as solutions as above, Eq. (1.11a) reduces to:


This equation shows that a finite conductivity σ is equivalent to an imaginary term in the permittivity ε.

1.3.3 Exemplary solutions, the exponentially damped plane wave

Coming back to an exemplary solution in the case of an absorbing material, where the permittivity ε has an imaginary part ε=ε′–iε″total


Then the time harmonic plane wave has to be a solution of Eq. (1.11c).


), a similar equation can be derived, leading to a general solution with g, h, m, and n constants to satisfy the boundary conditions (see Table 1.2):

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