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Project Info ACTIVE Project Title

Industrial Microwave Technologies Market Study

Project Number ET23SWE0070 Organization SWE (Statewide Electric ETP) End-use Process Loads Sector Industrial Project Year(s) 2023 - 2024
Industrial processes are one of the more difficult sectors for electrification and energy efficiency measures due to the high capital costs and risks of implementing new technologies. While less known, emerging microwave technologies can be a process heating solution for a variety of industrial, agricultural, medical, and food processing applications. Benefits compared to other heating technology can include equipment size, reduced noise, lower energy usage, and higher operating temperature ranges. As well, additional benefits may occur in processes that take advantage of microwave effects where energy can be applied directly to reactants, allowing for enhanced reactions where low temperatures may be needed to avoid thermal degradation of sensitive products, or even superheating of solvents. The recent rapid development of microwave technologies has allowed the commercialization of new products that can be deployed for a variety of energy efficiency and electrification measures. Within the food processing industry, industrial microwave generators are commercially available for cooking, tempering, sterilizing, drying, heating, and pasteurizing many food products. Microwave freeze-drying is an emerging technology that has shown potential in a lab setting to save 34.5% energy consumption and 33.3% drying time compared to pure vacuum freeze-drying methods (Chen, Bo-Lin, et. al, 2023). However, there have not been any known market studies that understand customer acceptance or the energy efficiency impacts of these products in an industrial setting. Larger scale microwave industrial processes are also being developed for electrification of chemical processes as well. Processes are currently in development for catalytic microwave depolymerization, to breakdown polymer chains into monomer forms and waxes, as well as thermal decomposition processes for recycling hydrocarbon wastes into commodity products. Pilot plants have also been developed in recent years, capable of producing fatty acid esters at a scale of 3200 tons annually. Microwave reactors for a variety of chemical processes are available and can be an energy efficient electric alternative. Technological and financial elements of electrification retrofits remain unknown, particularly for this technology market segment. There are few studies on market elements to enable microwave technologies to be broadly accepted. Due to the wide applicability of the technology key opportunities must be identified and documented for large industrial customers to overcome the unique challenge of custom-built, complex process systems, and high temperature process loads. We are proposing a market study to assess existing opportunities and barriers for deploying industrial microwave technologies. With the wide applicability of microwave technology across a variety of industrial sectors, this project will help understand the market potential and solutions available for decarbonizing industrial processes through microwave systems. We will investigate the technology readiness levels for various applications, with an emphasis on technologies that can be readily deployed.
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  • Southern California Edison Company logo
  • Southern California Gas Company logo
  • San Diego Gas & Electric Company logo
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District logo
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power logo
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The ETCC is funded in part by ratepayer dollars and the California IOU Emerging Technologies Program, the IOU Codes & Standards Planning & Coordination Subprograms, and the Demand Response Emerging Technologies (DRET) Collaborative programs under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. The municipal portion of this program is funded and administered by Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.