ECE SEMINAR: Microwave Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture and Medical Theranostics

Jan 21

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Friday, January 21, 2022 – 7:00AM to 8:00AM


Paolo Maccarini

Recent advances in microwave technologies can have significant impact on agricultural and medical applications. In particular, the development of affordable high power and ultra-low noise solid state amplifiers (SSA) paved the way for reliable delivery and detection of electromagnetic energy deeply into objects and tissues. I will present two SSA-based applications that could potentially have vast implications for human wellbeing: 1) crop protection 2) disease theranostics (therapy+diagnostics).

1) Nematodes are responsible for almost $200b crop loss around the world and the current soil treatments (mostly chemical fumigation or pesticide) cause significant damage to the environment and human health. Current ecofriendly procedures are not scalable, energy consuming or partially effective. Steam, for instance, consumes significant amount of water and energy. On the other end, microwave energy is environmentally-sustainable and extremely effective in reducing rapidly pest population and weeds (which accounts for most herbicide use). However, the traditional magnetron or tube-based amplifiers are cumbersome, vibration-sensitive, have short life-span and require very high bias voltage. As part of a recently-awarded USDA proposal in collaboration with NCSU Agricultural Sciences I will show how SSAs could be a game changer for replacing pesticide and potentially herbicides.

2) SSA affordability, efficiency and reliability and novel antenna design are also changing microwave-based imaging and therapeutic devices. In particular, recent funding on thermoacoustic imaging (TAI) and multiband microwave radiometry (MMR) allowed us to demonstrate reduced cost and size of TAI and MMR systems which can replace expensive MRI in diagnostic (brown fat, fatty liver, joint inflammation) and treatment monitoring (cancer thermal ablation, thermally-enhanced immunotherapy, renal denervation, adipose tissue reduction). Recent data on enhanced microwave pulses-heat conversion with the use of gold nanostars (GNS) is paving the way for a single platform microwave theranostics (diagnostics, therapy, treatment monitoring/assessment) of deep kidney and liver tumors.

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