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Thawing of foods in a microwave oven: I. Effect of power levels and power cycling.

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  • 1Dept. of Agricultural and Biol. Engineering, Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Microwave thawing is faster than other methods, but it can produce significant non-uniformity of heating. The objective of this study was to perform comprehensive experimentation and heat transfer modeling to relate the time to thaw and the non-uniformity of thawing to power cycling, power level and the surface heat transfer coefficient. The governing energy equation was formulated with an exponential decay of the microwave flux from the surface. Surface microwave flux was obtained from the measured temperature rise using inverse heat transfer analysis. Gradual phase change was formulated as an apparent specific heat, and was obtained for the experimental material tylose from differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) measurements. The temperatures were measured immediately following heating with a fast response thermocouple. Dielectric properties were measured above freezing. Results show that the microwave flux at the surface and its decay are affected by the changes in the power level. Power cycling has an almost identical effect as continuous power at the reduced level of the average cycled power. As power level increases, the surface flux increases by the same fraction. At higher power levels, however, the outside thaws relatively faster. A "shield" develops due to a much reduced microwave penetration depth at the surface. This thawing time at higher power levels is reduced considerably. Temperature increases initially are non-uniform since the surface is heated at a faster rate than the interior. In keeping with the assumption that once the temperature reaches 100 degrees C, all energy absorbed goes into evaporation, and subsequent temperature is maintained at 100 degrees C. Thus, eventually, non-uniformity starts to decrease.

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