Why isn’t there a microwave for cooling things instead of heating them up?


There are only 3 ways to transfer heat into or out of something: radiation, conduction, and convection. A microwave, not surprisingly, uses microwaves (radiation) to transfer heat. It’s very easy to add energy through radiation. You just blast whatever it is you want to heat up with microwaves. The microwaves are absorbed by water, fats and sugars. Once absorbed, they’re converted directly into atomic motion, meaning heat.

To cool something down this way is another story entirely. Instead of just blasting something with microwaves, you have to hit it with very specifically tuned and timed microwaves to counteract and dampen the atomic motion. This is a very nice analogy: it’s easy to throw something at a bell to make it ring, but it’s a lot harder to hit it with something to make it quiet.

A “reverse microwave” would undoubtedly be an amazing invention. Right now, we waste a great deal of energy on cooling items, and keeping them cool. With a reverse microwave, you could cool that same item in a fraction of the time, using only a fraction of the energy. Though I’m afraid something like a reverse microwave might never exist. Active radiative cooling just isn’t very practical.

You might come across products that claim they can do it (e.g. http://www.ohgizmo.com/2013/10/29/reverse-microwave-chills-drinks-in-seconds/), but don’t be fooled. This impostor doesn’t use radiation at all. Instead it uses ordinary conduction & convection.


Transcendent Man


We’ve been talking a lot about the future lately… In all of our previous posts we talked about how microwave technology and automation are going to affect our lives. When we’re discussing these subjects we always try to estimate how long it’s going to take before we see any of these changes in our own lives… Most of the time our estimations are that they will still take a long time.

But what if they didn’t? In 2005, Ray Kurzweil wrote a book with his predictions about the future of technology: “The singularity is near”. In 2009, they made a documentary about Ray and his predictions.

For more than three decades, inventor, futures, and New York Times best-selling author Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In Transcendent Man, Ptolemy follows Kurzweil around the globe as he presents the daring arguments from his best-selling book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

Kurzweil predicts that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, humanity is fast approaching an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and millions of times more powerful.This will be the dawning of a new civilization enabling us to transcend our biological limitations. In Kurzweil’s post-biological world, boundaries blur between human and machine, real and virtual. Human aging and illness are reversed, world hunger and poverty are solved, and we cure death. Ptolemy explores the social and philosophical implications of these changes and the potential threats they pose to human civilization in dialogues with world leader Colin Powell; technologists Hugo deGaris, Peter Diamandis, Kevin Warwick, and Dean Kamen; journalist Kevin Kelly; actor William Shatner; and musician Stevie Wonder. Kurzweil maintains a radically optimistic view of the future, while acknowledging new dangers.

I found it really interesting to watch this documentary and got an idea about how our future might actually look.

I hope it inspires you!

Microwave Technology in Diagnostic Imaging?

Microwave Technology in Diagnostic Imaging?

As you probably already know by now, microwave technology has a lot more applications than just heating up food. Here is another one already in development…

Researchers are studying and testing new ways to get good images of human tissue. These images can be used to detect anomalies such as cancer.

One area they are currently exploring is microwave technology. The same basic technology used in microwave ovens can be used to create an image of breast tissue. By sending very low levels of microwave energy through tissue, researchers can form a three-dimensional image.These images capture the dielectric properties of the tissue, which translates into detecting tumors or other aberrations.

If you’re interested, you can watch this short movie where Keith Paulson gives us more information about cancer imaging. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cmm2JPbOG8I

This is still a pilot study, but it helps researchers to get a better understanding of the amazing possibilities of microwave technology.

New treatments in cancer research are scarce, a potential new detection system for cancer cells is a very good development for the sector!


Baxter: The Future of Factory Automation

Our previous post discussed what future jobs could look like. Today we take a look at one example that’s ready to take over the jobs that are easily automated.

In this video we’re introduced to Baxter, a robot that can redefine manufacturing environments. It performs a variety of repetitive production tasks while safely and intelligently working alongside people.

Baxter exhibits behavior-based ‘common sense,’ capable of sensing and adapting to its task and its environment. It doesn’t require complex programming or costly integration. And with its relatively low price point, Baxter provides a compelling alternative for manufacturers.

People will lose their jobs. But it’s a process that has happened throughout human history. Just think about blacksmiths, street lamp lighters, telegraph operators, milkmen, telephone operators, typist, elevator operators, … These are all jobs that became obsolete at some point in history. Everyone that lost their job retrained for some other occupation or just switched.
So NO, the majority won’t go hungry!

Inventions like these will become cheaper and smarter in the next few years and will drastically change the whole manufacturing industry!

TED talk: What will future jobs look like?

A few weeks ago I was explaining to my grandfather what we’re working on for our thesis. His first reaction was: “Because of such automations people lose their job, …”. I had a hard time convincing him this is actually a good thing… he is looking at it a little too short-sighted.

No one can predict what the impact of automation is going to be in the future, but with technology just starting to show it’s potential I think we are awaiting a fascinating future…

In this TED talk Andrew brings us his vision of the future labor-market. In this far-seeing talk, he thinks through what future jobs might look like, and how to educate coming generations to hold them.

Do you think the job you are studying for/performing at the moment will still exist in 2050?

Microwaving your clothes

In the never-ending quest to cut the time spent on domestic chores, researchers are trying to bring the benefits of microwave energy to the laundry room. In a home with a relatively new refrigerator, the clothes dryer usually uses more energy than any other home appliance. An electric clothes dryer draws between 4,000 and 6,000 watts (60 eurocent/ hour). A microwave-only cycle was found to increase efficiency while decreasing cycle time and temperature for small loads and delicate fabrics.

There are still some problems with metal objects such as coins… Ongoing work to further reduce the likelihood of damage to clothing has identified methods of controlling and/or preventing the conditions that result in fabric damage.

Some experts in the microwave heating community have doubts about the long term viability of microwave clothes drying, while others express optimism by comparing the challenges to those overcome by the microwave oven in its early days. Noting how consumers have accepted and adapted to the microwave oven, the most likely scenario will be an evolution in consumer laundry habits and the birth of an entirely new industry of clothing and laundry products developed expressly for the microwave clothes dryer.


How long do you think it will take before we see this technology in our own homes?

Source: http://www.appliancemagazine.com/editorial.php?article=150&zone=first=1

Self-healing asphalt

In this TEDxTalk Eric gives a demo of a new type of asphalt made with simple materials, that results in astonishing features.

The problem:
After some years, asphalt binder is degraded by environmental factors, especially due to UV-radiation from the sun, until it loses the ability to bind the surface particles together. This results in cracks which allow damaging moisture into the lower pavement levels, creating surface roughness, pot holes, degradation and eventual structural failure. At present, there are no solutions to close cracks in the pavement. Occasionally, when signs of ageing are visible, a sealant that protects asphalt surfaces from environmental degradation and moisture penetration is applied to the surface. These procedures can increase the lifetime of asphalt for several years before rehabilitation or reconstruction is required, but they have the disadvantage that they only work in the first centimeters from the surface and can reduce sliding resistance.

In many studies it has been demonstrated how it is possible to make asphalt or concrete conductive by adding electrically conductive fillers and fibers. Then, if this magnetically susceptible and electrically conductive material is heated with electromagnetism. Heat is generated through the energy lost and finally the material melts and the crack is closed.

Microwave technology makes this new asphalt economically viable because of the following reasons:
*The steel wool content is around ten times less than that recommended for heating by electro- magnetic induction, which in practice could mean an important reduction in costs.
*The amount of electricity used by microwave devices is much less than that required to produce a similar effect by electromagnetic induction.

You can find extra information in this paper:
Heating asphalt mixtures with microwaves to promote self-healing (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950061812009634)

Active denial system

Like every technology ever created to help mankind, the U.S. military can swallow it, digest it, and spit out something destructive. Microwave technology is no different. The following is a quote from a spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory:

For the first millisecond, it just felt like the skin was warming up. Then it got warmer and warmer and you felt like it was on fire…. As soon as you’re away from that beam your skin returns to normal and there is no pain.

The spokesman is describing the Active Denial System (ADS), a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon designed for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control. Here you can see it mounted on a vehicle:


Believe it or not, it works on the same principle as a simple microwave oven. It excites the water and fat molecules in the skin, instantly heating them. There is one significant difference with a regular microwave oven though: the ADS only penetrates the top layers of skin, up to 0,4 mm. This causes a sensation of 44°C on the skin, without actually damaging critical structures inside of the skin. No human test subject could endure this for more than 5 seconds. Furthermore, the beam can be focused up to 700 meters away, and penetrate thick clothing. You’ll also have no idea where it came from or where you should run to if you don’t actually see the ADS. The beam leaves no sound, sight or smell.

According to Wired Magazine, the ADS has been rejected for fielding in Iraq due to Pentagon fears that it would be regarded as an instrument of torture.

Do you thing the U.S. military should continue developing this weapon? Do you think it is a better alternative to other crowd control weapons, such as gas grenades or water cannons?

Source:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Denial_System




Microwave technology inside Dymotec

Dymotec, a company that automates industrial processes, decided after 17 years that it was time to diversify. At that time, a professor at the university of Leuven who was an expert in microwave technology came to them, asking if they were interested in building a machine based on microwave technology.

Dymotec originally started making a “microwave” that was able to replace an oven used for a manufacturing process called lost-wax casting: a method of casting, in which a mould is formed around a wax pattern, which is subsequently melted and drained away.

With a convention industrial oven, the dewaxing of a mall can easily take more than a week. This is because the temperature of the mall has to rise very slowly and even to ±700 degrees for the wax to get out without making any cracks in the shell.
With the new microwave machine, the wax could be removed much faster and much environmentally friendlier: it takes 1/10th of the time, 1/4th of the energy and you have the possibility of re-using the wax.

When they were building and testing this machine, they realized this technology could be used for a lot of other processes. Now it’s even possible to dry wood or powders (we will explain this in one of our next blogposts).

A while ago, Dymotec did tests for a company that ships quarrying across the world. The company was able to dry the material to 30% (mening there is still 30% water in the product). With Dymotec’s technology, they will beable to go to 0%, and therefore carry 30% more of the product.

The prototypes proved this technology could reduce a company’s carbon emission drastically. This is because all heating processes go much faster, so there’s much less energy required. This, off course, interests a lot of multinationals.

We think microwave technology will change a lot of industrial processes for the better. Do you?

full article(Dutch) & short movie(Dutch):  Screenshot 2013-10-21 15.10.03


Hello world!

Our names are Jesse and Thomas. We’re two students at Group T in Leuven where we study industrial engineering ICT. Currently, we’re in our master year working on our thesis.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to our thesis project and this blog.

In short, our thesis consists of automating a microwave drying process. When researching and testing if a new compound or material can be dried using a microwave, there are many steps to be taken and calculations to be made. We’re going to simplify this process.

But we’re not going to talk about that, as it would be entirely too boring.

Instead, we’re going to talk about exciting new microwave technologies and it’s very many uses (other than heating up a cup of soup). We’re going to talk about the impact of these technologies on society and the other way around.

You can expect updates every one or two weeks!

Until next time,