Microwaves could be as bad for environment as cars

In news

Microwaves emit 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in the EU, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.

Microwave use across the European Union (EU) emits as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars

EU comprises of 28 member countries, including France, Germany, UK, and Sweden.

Method of research

The researchers used life-cycle assessment (LCA) to estimate the environmental impacts of microwaves, taking into account their manufacture, use and end-of-life waste management.

They investigated 12 different environmental factors, including climate change, depletion of natural resources and ecological toxicity.

The main environmental “hotspots” are materials used to manufacture microwaves, the manufacturing process and end-of-life waste management. For instance, the study highlighted that the manufacturing process alone contributes more than 20% to depletion of natural resources and to climate change.

Electricity consumption by microwaves that has the biggest impact on the environment, taking into account its whole life cycle

Solution

Efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving consumer awareness and behaviour to use appliances more efficiently. They suggested that electricity consumption by microwaves can be reduced by adjusting the time of cooking to the type of food.

Existing regulation will not be sufficient to reduce the environmental impacts of microwaves and recommended that it will be necessary to develop specific regulations for these devices targeting their design which will help reduce the amount of resources used to make microwaves and waste generated at the end of their lifetime

Basic Gyan

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (100 cm) and 300 GHz (0.1 cm).

Microwaves travel by line-of-sight; unlike lower frequency radio waves they do not diffract around hills, follow the earth’s surface as ground waves, or reflect from the ionosphere, so terrestrial microwave communication links are limited by the visual horizon to about 40 miles (64 km).

Electromagnetic spectrum

NameWavelengthFrequency (Hz)Photon energy (eV) )
Gamma ray< 0.02 nm> 15 EHz> 62.1 keV
X-ray0.01 nm – 10 nm30 EHz – 30 PHz124 keV – 124 eV
Ultraviolet10 nm – 400 nm30 PHz – 750 THz124 eV – 3 eV
Visible light390 nm – 750 nm770 THz – 400 THz3.2 eV – 1.7 eV
Infrared750 nm – 1 mm400 THz – 300 GHz1.7 eV – 1.24 meV
Microwave1 mm – 1 m300 GHz – 300 MHz1.24 meV – 1.24 µeV
Radio1 mm – 100 km300 GHz – 3 kHz1.24 µeV – 12.4 feV

Microwave uses

Microwave technology is extensively used for point-to-point telecommunications (i.e. non-broadcast uses). Microwaves are especially suitable for this use since they are more easily focused into narrower beams than radio waves, allowing frequency reuse; their comparatively higher frequencies allow broad bandwidth and high data transmission rates, and antenna sizes are smaller than at lower frequencies because antenna size is inversely proportional to transmitted frequency.

Microwaves are used in spacecraft communication, and much of the world’s data, TV, and telephone communications are transmitted long distances by microwaves between ground stations and communications satellites. Microwaves are also employed in microwave ovens and in radar technology.

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