By David Lesser
Industrial Microwave heating and Industrial Radio Frequency heating are well established technologies for industrial process heating. They have typically been used in applications with demanding requirements such as close temperature tolerances or processing in specialized environments. Traditional process heating has relied on natural gas or steam derived from oil or coal fired boilers. In the past, these have been the most economical methods with conventional electric heat being considerably more expensive. Environmental regulations are forcing a shift in this paradigm. The cost per BTU of heat will continue to rise as fuel prices increase.
However, what fuel is used, how efficiently it is applied and the amount of carbon released at the user determine the ultimate cost. Microwave or RF heating offers the user a multitude of advantages in the changing world of process heating. Microwave and RF heating are efficient. Unlike other methods (including electric) the heat required for the process is developed within the processed materials themselves. The losses incurred in transferring the energy into the product are very low. Microwave and RF energy are capable of penetrating materials of poor thermal conductivity. Instead of prolonged heating in a conventional system waiting for external heat to “soak” into the product, heating begins immediately through the entire product as soon as power is applied. This dramatically reduces energy usage by shortening process times and eliminating the need to keep the energy input to the system at process levels when not needed.
Virtually no warm-up is required. In many applications Microwave and RF energy can be targeted at a specific component or material within a product producing heat only where it is needed through a process known as selective heating. Industrial Microwave and Industrial Radio Frequency equipment emit no greenhouse gasses whereby eliminating the need for air quality monitoring, fines and penalties from outdated or malfunctioning combustion systems. Not all industrial heating applications are suitable for Industrial Microwave or Radio Frequency technology, but for many, it offers more heat on target, faster and with less energy usage than any other method.
David Lesser is the owner of Thermex Thermatron, LP, manufacturer and supplier of industrial microwave systems.