Dielectric Loss Factor

Because the field strength (E) and the frequency are essentially constant for the microwave oven being used, the loss factor (e") is the only variable. The term loss originated from the discovery that energy loss occurred when the electrical energy through a capacitor was cycled on and off. The term today, in microwave heating technology, is representative of a desirable condition, whereas it once was considered undesirable. In the context being used, the loss factor represents a property of the material being processed, and a lossy material is one that heats well, while a low loss material is one that heats poorly and is, therefore, more transparent to microwave energy. The loss factor is a measurable quantity and a considerable volume of dielectric loss data have been accumulated (2-6).

The loss factor is the product of two measurable properties: the dielectric constant (e1) and the loss tangent (tan S). The loss factor varies with temperature and frequency as shown in Table 1 and indicates that the penetration of microwave energy decreases with increasing dielectric loss.

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