Focusing firstly on the thermal effects of electromagnetic treatment, the fatal impacts of high temperatures on botanical and zoological specimens have been studied in detail for over a century 
. An empirical relationship between lethal temperature and temperature holding time has been developed by Lepeschkin 
is the lethal temperature (°C), and Z
is the lethal temperature holding time, in minutes 
. Individual relationships for different species of plants and pathogens 
have been developed over time. Ultimately, heat can provide similar lethal effects to chemicals and therefore has been used in soil, timber, hay, and grain sanitation processes 
for some time.
Various heat sources have been considered for sanitation applications. These include, solarization, solar heating, flaming, steam heating, and electromagnetic heating. The following section highlights how electromagnetic heating, especially using microwave energy, has been used for thermal sanitization.
3. Microwave Heat Sanitization
Many studies have considered microwave heating as a method of sanitization. Table 1
provides an overview of some key research. One of the main areas of study has been the deactivation of weed seeds in the soil. Davis, et al. 
demonstrated the efficacy of microwave energy for weed management. They developed a prototype system, called the “Zapper” 
, which could treat the soil in situ, using a variant on a horn antenna to apply the microwave energy to the soil’s surface. To obtain consistent pre-emergent control of both broadleaved weeds and grasses, it was necessary to apply at least 183 J cm−2
. Brodie, et al. 
later confirmed that 185 J cm−2
of microwave energy, when applied to moist soil, could effectively kill various Lolium
spp. (ryegrasses) seeds to a depth of 5 cm. Treating seeds in dry soil required over 550 J cm−2
of microwave energy to kill seeds to a depth of only 2–3 cm 
The energy required to control emerged weeds using a horn antenna is quite variable (77–500 J cm−2
, depending in the species and the height of the horn antenna above the ground. Recent experiments using a 15 cm wide slow-wave applicator, connected to a 5-kW microwave source, and being towed at an equivalent speed of approximately 0.6 km h−1
(17 cm s−1
), has demonstrated that applying 20 J cm−2
of microwave energy can kill most emerged weeds (unpublished).
3.1. Effects on Soil Biota
It has been demonstrated that microwave soil heating has an immediate impact on soil microbial communities 
. The populations of some species are significantly reduced 
; however, other species, including nitrifying bacteria and archaea, are relatively unaffected, except at extremely high doses of microwave energy 
. Soil bacterial and fungal community compositions change significantly due to microwave soil treatment and recovery of biological diversity takes more than 4–5 weeks 
. Recent experiments have demonstrated that microwave soil treatments, with the similar intensity necessary to kill weed seeds, significantly reduce the number of soil-borne fungal pathogens, including Fusarium
spp., Macrophomina phaseolina,
and Thielaviopsis basicola
3.2. Implications for Cropping Systems
The combination of removal of weed competition and soil disinfestation provided by microwave soil treatment results in significant crop yield increases. In field experiments, increases in crop yield of between 18% and 84%, compared with the untreated or hand-weeded controls, have been observed 
. Pot experiments have demonstrated that a single microwave soil treatment can provide significant crop yield increases over several seasons, with the longest observations spanning three years, so far 
Table 1. Summary of microwave-based weed management research.
||Target Weed Species
||Percentage Weed/Seed Destruction
||Hard Red Winter Wheat
||50% seed mortality
(dry, 4 h soaked and 46 h germinated seeds)
|Zea mays, Arachis hypogaea, Prosopis juliflora, Cucumis sativus, Brassica spp., Rumex crispus, Echinochloa colonum, Amaranthus sp., Gossypium hirsutum, Glycine max, Sorghum vulgare and Triticum vulgare
||17% reduction in germination in dry seeds but 100% in case of moist seeds at 10 s of exposure
||Post-emergence (aquatic weed)
||Duckweed (Wolffia punctat)
||Varying exposure time (not mention properly)
||Pre- and post-emergences
Texas panicium Barnyardgrass
|For post-emergence MW treatment 309 J cm–2 energy was required for 100% control (field conditions) while for pre-emergence MW weed control 73 J cm−2 gave 85–100% control (Glass house conditions)
||45–720 J cm−2
||London rocket (13 cm deep in soil profile) and Sunflower (2.5 cm seeded depth)
||87% for London rocket and 93% for Sunflower
||Clover and Turnip
||60–78% reduction in seeds germination
||Varying exposure time
||Pre-emergence of seeds in soil
||Black Medic, Barnyard grass, Foxtail purslane, Redroot pigweed, Large crabgrass
||Brassica napus, Linum usitatissimum, Avena fatua
||10–30 mW cm–2
||100% growth inhibitions
||Trifolium and Medicago
||85% reduction in germination
||60% (based on seed moisture)
||0, 10, 20, and 30
||Wild Oat and Wheat
||Avena sativa and native weed seeds
||Reduced weed seeds emergence
||4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256 s
||Abutilon theophrasti, Pancium miliaceum, Lucerne and Rapeseed
||Complete dehydrating of plants
||120, 240, 420 and 960 s
||Rubber vine, Parthenium and Bellyache bush
||88% (Rubber vine), 67% (Parthenium) and 94% (Bellyache bush) mortality at 960 s irradiation
||0.10–1.24 kWh m–2
||Pre- and post-emergence
||Malva parviflora and Triticum aestivum
||100% destruction of tested specie at 0.65 kWh m–2
||120, 240, 320 and 720 s
||Pre-emergence treatment of soil
||Lolium perenne and Lolium rigidum
||100% seed mortality was achieved at 240 s of MW irradiation
||5, 15, 30 and 60 s
||Pre- and post-emergence
||Prickly Paddy melon
||100% debilitation of plants
||5, 10, 15, 30, 60 s
||Ryegrass and Wild Radish
While disinfestation of soil has been a key focus of microwave research, other disinfestation and disinfestation studies have been undertaken. Table 2 lists some of the key findings from several examples.
Table 2. Table of investigations into thermal control of pests and pathogens using microwave heating.
|Almaiman et al.
||Effects of microwave heat treatment on fungal growth, functional properties, total phenolic content, and antioxidant activity of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) grain
||Microwave heating significantly reduced fungal incidence in the sorghum grain. No significant changes were found in the crude protein and digestibility of protein, water holding capacity, and oil holding capacity of sorghum; however, application of higher microwave caused a sharp reduction in the protein solubility, foaming capacity, emulsion capacity, and the emulsion stability. Conversely, a significant increase in total phenolic content and antioxidant activity was observed after microwave heat treatment.
|Mahdi et al.
||Effect of Microwave Radiation on Bacteria, Fungi and Some Growth Characteristics of Cowpea Vigna unguiculata L.
||Microwave soil treatment significantly reduced fungi and bacteria that could be cultured from the soil. At the highest energy level (15 kJ kg−1 soil) both fungi and bacteria were eliminated. Cowpea above ground biomass and root mass significantly increased (103% increase above the control) for moderate doses of microwave energy (10 kJ kg−1 soil), but almost returned to the same level as the untreated control for very high doses of microwave energy (15 kJ kg−1 soil).
|Tiwari et al.
||Dielectric heating-assisted disinfestation of black gram and its effect on protein profile: A comparative study on radio frequency and microwave heating
||Pulse beetle (Callosobruchus maculatus) in blackgram (Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper) kernels, were subjected to radio frequency and microwave heating. The pupa stage of the insect’s life cycle was found to be more resilient to heat treatment than eggs, larvae, and adults. There were also measurable changes in the amino acid profile of the blackgram.
|Speir et al.
||Effects of microwave radiation on the microbial biomass, phosphatase activity and levels of extractable N and P in a low fertility soil under pasture
||Microwave irradiation was investigated as a controlled soil biocidal treatment which could selectively kill microbial biomass. Under the experimental conditions chosen, irradiation of the soil sample for 90 s gave a kill of microbial biomass equal to that achieved by CHCl3 fumigation. Extractable mineral N was increased after incubation of irradiated soil, and after 90 s irradiation was only slightly lower than that of fumigated soil.
|Yadav et al.
||Microwave technology for disinfestation of cereals and pulses: An overview
||Microwaves may be an alternate to chemical methods of killing insects in grain as their application do not leave any undesirable residues and thus might be very effective for controlling insect infestation compared to other available methods. Microwave disinfestation can provide a continuous process to allow large quantities of products to pass in a shorter period. Microwave disinfestation is considered safe and competitive alternative method to fumigation as it avoids environmental pollution.
Most microwave treatments are focused on the temperature range below 100 °C. This is partly because of the very high latent heat of vaporization for water; however, some studies have shown that microwave heating can achieve much higher temperatures. For example, Falciglia and Vagliasindi 
achieved temperatures of up to 260 °C, when 180 MJ kg−1
of microwave heat was applied to soil at 12% moisture content (dry weight basis). These temperatures are high enough to kill most pathogens, including anthrax spores. Microwave assisted pyrolysis at temperatures above 700 °C have been achieved 
. At these temperatures, organic molecules are decomposed to produce syngas, bio-oil, and biochar. These products can be regarded as sterile.
3.3. Microwave Treatment of Animal Fodder
Weed seeds, pests (e.g., fire ants), and pathogens are often transported in hay 
. Fumigation can manage these problems; however, like with soil disinfestation, it is possible for heat to overcome these problems as well 
. In accordance with the temperature–time response of all living things, the mortality of insects, seeds, and pathogens increases with temperature and exposure time 
Dong, et al. 
discovered that the organic matter degradability of wheat straw in the rumen of yaks was increased by around 20% after 4 min of treatment in a 750 W, 2.54 GHz, microwave oven. Sadeghi and Shawrang 
showed that microwave treatment of canola meal increased in vitro dry matter disappearance, including substances that were deemed undegradable in the rumen. Sadeghi and Shawrang 
also showed that microwave treatment reduced the rumen degradable starch fraction of corn grain and decreased crude protein degradation of the soya bean meal compared with untreated samples. Small scale in vitro pepsin-cellulase digestion experiments 
demonstrated that microwave treatment: increased dry matter percentage with increasing microwave treatment time; increased in vitro dry matter disappearance with increasing microwave treatment time; but had no significant effect on post-digestion crude protein content. Live animal trials, using microwave-treated lucerne hay showed an 8.1% higher increase in body weight, compared with animals fed with untreated hay 
3.4. Microwave Treatment of Timber for Pest Control
Non-chemical treatments for infested timber have been reported for some time 
. The efficacy of excessive heat or cold, electrocution and microwave energy have all been investigated. Heating of the timber using high temperature kilns resulted in 90 to 96% mortality of Western Drywood Termites (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae
), three days after treatment 
. It was interesting to note that mortality rose to 98% after 4 weeks 
When exposed to radiofrequencies/microwaves the first reaction of insects is an attempt to escape; this is followed by loss of motor coordination, stiffening, immobility and, after a certain time interval, death 
. Lewis 
demonstrated that Western Drywood Termites could be controlled by microwave heating, with 100% mortality being achieved at a microwave dose density of 65 J cm−2
. Massa, Panariello, Pinchera, Schettino, Caprio, Griffo and Migliore 
investigated the efficacy of microwave treatment of standing live palm trees for the control of Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier
). Their objective was to thermally control the weevil without killing the host plant. Differences in susceptibility of the insect were found between development stages within the species. Their results showed that the adult insects are much more sensitive to heat than the larger larvae with 20 min at 50 °C and only 4 min at 80 °C causing adult death. Lethal time for the larvae varies with weight and the most resistant were those weighting between 4 and 6 g, requiring 30 min at 50 °C 
. Based on their successful experimental work, a semi-commercial prototype has been developed to treat palm trees, in situ, using a ring applicator to apply the microwave energy to the tree.
3.5. Scale-Up of Microwave Heating Systems
Scale-up of microwave heating systems has been explored for over 40 years 
. Many efficient industrial microwave heating plants have been established in several industries, including: the food industry, the rubber processing industry, the timber industry, several waste management industries, and for general product drying 
; however, scale-up of most microwave technologies still requires much more investigation and refinement. Most research is completed at laboratory scale, where the field densities in small samples are high. Achieving similar field densities when processing large volumes of material can be challenging.
The two important parameters that limit field density inside the material are: the penetration depth of the microwave fields into the processed material and available power. Penetration depth depends on the dielectric properties of the material and the operating frequency of the microwave system 
. Penetration depth is directly dependent on microwave frequency, so the first step in the scale-up process usually implies the use of lower industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) frequencies. For example, many microwave heating experiments are performed at 2450 MHz, which is the frequency used in domestic microwave ovens; however, industrial-scale systems usually operate at 915 MHz (or 868 MHz or 922 MHz, depending on how this ISM band is defined in different parts of the world), which is the next lower ISM frequency 
. Adopting the lower frequency increases the penetration depth of the microwave fields. The trade-off of increasing penetration depth is that the volume of material which is absorbing microwave energy significantly increases and therefore the resulting field density in the larger volume is significantly reduced. The field density can be increased by increasing the available microwave power.
Microwave generators, varying from a few hundred watts up to 100 kW can be used individually 
or in multiple generator designs 
for microwave heating applications. Although they only seem to have been used for research and military applications, single relativistic cavity magnetrons have been shown to produce in excess of 4 GW 
. Multiple phase-locked sources output of 3 GW total output; repetitive, near-GW peak powers at pulse repetition rates up to 1 kHz, and long-pulse operation with energy per pulse of about 1 kJ have also been achieved 
Installations vary in design, depending on the commodity being processed. Continuous processing can be achieved using tunnel applicators 
; however, careful electromagnetic design of the in-feed and out-feed ports is needed to prevent radiation leakage into the environment. Microwave cavities 
can better prevent microwave field leakage; however, they must be used for batch processing. Therefore, the major challenges of microwave heating scale-up are material handling and achieving similar field densities inside the commodity as was achieved during laboratory-scale experiments.