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Microwave Processing of Materials
The economic benefits of microwave processing are difficult to define in a general way. The decision to use microwave processing for any application has to be based on an analysis of the specific process. Important factors include the location of the processing facility; the product requirements; possible property improvements; alternative sources of energy; availability of capital; and the balance between energy costs, labor costs, capital costs, and the value added to the product.
The use of microwave processing is inhibited by the high capital costs of microwave systems and the inherent inefficiency of electric power. In most successful industrial uses of microwaves, factors other than energy account for savings realized from microwave processing; improvements in productivity and material properties, and savings in time, space, and capital equipment, are probably the best bases for selecting microwaves over conventional processes. In many applications, hybrid systems provide more savings than either microwave or conventional systems on their own.