The role of microwaves within material technologies has so far been a minor one. This is because there is only one source available, the magnetron, and this can only provide distributed heating, with simple amplitude modulation control. Industrial applications in material processing require focussed microwave power, similar to a laser beam, to achieve high power density and also require frequency modulation for process control. As a consequence magnetrons have only found commercial applications in a very few areas such as food processing. The newly developed microwave Industrial Free Electron Laser (MIFEL) will be used for this MICROMAT project and this device offers the potential to overcome the limitations of the magnetron.
The MIFEL has allowed the frequency range to be extended up from the magnetron frequency of 2.45 GHz to at least 50GHz with kWs output power. This substantial reduction in wavelength has now opened up a range of new industrial applications based upon microwave plasma generation and focussed heating. MIFELs are compact devices suitable for use in a factory location and have a cost comparable to that of a magnetron system.
The MICROMAT project will introduce for the first time table top MIFEL technology into manufacturing processes where the new technology would have most impact, most benefits and to solve problems which exist with the current technology.
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