Researchers Develop “Studying” Microwave Oven – Tech Xplore


Photo credit: Remko Detz

In a publication in the Journal of Cleaner Production, Prof. Bob van der Zwaan from the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences presents the first example of a learning curve for microwave ovens that follows a learning rate of around 20%. The paper discusses possibilities for possible microwave heating applications in households and industry that can contribute to sustainable development. Rapidly falling prices could lead to a significant role for microwave technology in the energy transition.

Bob van der Zwaan is Professor of Sustainable Technology at the University of Amsterdam and Principal Scientist at TNO Energy Transition. Together with his colleague Remko Detz, he analyzed the price reduction of microwave ovens and expressed this in a learning curve, which results in a learning rate of 20%. The researchers assume that in the next few decades the cumulative capacity of microwaves will probably be doubled at least and thus a price reduction of almost 40% can be expected.

Contributions to sustainable development

Detz and Van der Zwaan calculate that the installed capacity of microwave ovens, most of which are in households, around the world is roughly half that of coal-fired power plants. Given the high level of efficiency and the fact that these devices can run on renewable electricity, the researchers see possible contributions to reducing CO2 emissions. For example, as market adoption increases in Africa and India, the microwave oven will introduce a new, cleaner form of cooking and, as such, will likely continue to contribute to sustainable development.

Detz and Van der Zwaan also advocate the industrial use of microwave technology as a relevant option for reducing CO2 emissions. They can represent an alternative to drying and heating processes, which are currently mainly operated by burning oil or natural gas. Microwave reactors can also be used in chemical synthesis. Microwave irradiation of gases can generate non-thermal plasmas that can be used to convert CO2 and produce renewable fuels or chemicals.

The scale-up of novel industrial microwave technology from the perspective of sustainability would significantly increase the demand for renewable electricity. The fast on and off time of microwave heating could help stabilize a future electricity system that will have to cope with an increased proportion of intermittent renewables and offer significant flexible demand options. If a learning rate of around 20% is maintained while using novel options for microwave technology, prices can fall quickly and microwave technology could play a significant role in the energy transition.

“Think small, learn fast” could be the right way forward for novel energy technologies

More information:
Remko J. Detz et al. Surfing the Microwave Learning Curve, Journal of Cleaner Production (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jclepro.2020.122278 Provided by the University of Amsterdam

Quote: Researchers develop “learning” microwave ovens (2020, October 2), accessed on October 2, 2020 from

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