You are on page 1of 3

IMTC 2005 Instrumentation and Measurement

Technology Conference
Ottawa, Canada, 17-19 May 2005
Effect of Nonequilibrated Moisture on Microwave Dielectric Properties of Wheat
Samir Trabelsi
1, 2
and Stuart O. Nelson
2
,
1
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Driftmier Engineering Center, The University of Georgia, Athens,
GA 30604, U.S.A.
2
U. S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Russell Research Center, PO Box 5677, Athens, GA 30604-
5677, U.S.A.
Phone: +1-706-546-3157, Fax: +1-706-546-3607, Email: strabelsi@qaru.ars.usda.gov
Abstract - Dielectric properties of wheat samples, in which moisture
equilibrium was upset by adding water, were tracked versus time in
the frequency range between 5 GHz and 15 GHz at room
temperature (23
o
C). Results show an initial drop in the dielectric
constant and loss factor, which reflects the initial stages of water
binding, followed by a plateau indicating the final binding level of
the water molecules inside the wheat kernels.
Keywords. Moisture content, microwaves, dielectric properties,
dielectric constant, loss factor, water binding.
I. INTRODUCTION
Water is an important component of many natural and
man-made materials. Understanding water behavior is
fundamental in improving and preserving the quality of many
of these materials. In particular, it has impact on developing
reliable indirect sensing methods for real-time quality control.
In the food and agricultural industries dielectric-based
moisture sensors are the most popular example that illustrates
such methods [1].
Microwave dielectric properties of liquid water are well
described by the Debye model [2]. In contrast, those of
bound water are not well understood and seem to vary from
one material to another. In fact, different binding modes of
water can take place depending on the amount of water
available and the structure and composition of a material.
One way to examine variations in water binding is to measure
the dielectric properties of a system in which equilibrium
moisture distribution is upset by adding water [3]. In this
study, changes of microwave dielectric properties with time
were tracked for wheat samples in which equilibrium
moisture content was suddenly increased to different
moisture levels. Variations of the dielectric properties with
time are shown for three moisture levels at 10 GHz and 23
o
C. Also, Cole-Cole plots are presented at a given time over
a broad microwave frequency range.
II. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
The experiment consists of adding water to a wheat sample
of known moisture content and tracking dielectric properties
changes with time at room temperature (23
o
C) over a wide
microwave frequency range. The wheat sample used in this
study was Arapahoe hard red winter wheat grown in
Nebraska in 1994 and stored at 4
o
C and 40% r.h., with an
initial equilibrium moisture content of 10.6%, wet basis. In
the first measurement series, distilled water was added to a 7
kg-wheat sample contained in a plastic bag to increase its
moisture content to about 14%. Water was added by
spraying the wheat kernels and mixing throughout the sample
to distribute the water evenly. Once the mixing was
completed, the wheat kernels were poured into a Styrofoam
1
container, which was placed between two horn/lens antennas
for microwave dielectric measurements [4]. To track changes
in the dielectric properties with time as water was binding
with molecules of wheat kernels, measurements were taken
every 5 min for about 90 min and then every 15 min for a
total time span of 6 hours. The same procedure was repeated
when the initial moisture content of the wheat sample was
increased from 10.6% to 17% and 22%, respectively. After
each measurement series, three samples of 30 g each were
taken out for oven moisture testing [5].
Dielectric properties of a given material are intrinsic
electrical properties that describe its polarization status when
subjected to an electric field. At microwave frequencies, this
polarization is orientational dipolar polarization resulting
from rotation of the water-molecule dipoles with the electric
field. Therefore, water dominates the dielectric response of
water-containing materials at these frequencies. The
dielectric properties are often represented by the relative
complex permittivity H H H c c c j , where the real part, H c , or
dielectric constant, characterizes the ability of a material to
store the electric-field energy, and the imaginary part, H c c , or
dielectric loss factor, reflects the ability of a material to
dissipate electric energy in the form of heat. At microwave
frequencies, the effect of ionic conductivity is negligible, and
thus all losses are attributed to water molecules. Here, the
dielectric properties were determined from measurements of
the modulus and phase of the scattering transmission
coefficient in free space with a pair of horn/lens
antennas and a Hewlett Packard 8510C vector network
analyzer. Detailed measurement procedures can be found in
a previous publication [4].
21
S
1
Mention of company or trade names is for purpose of description only and
does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
369 0-7803-8879-8/05/$20.00 2005 IEEE 0-7803-8879-8/05/$20.00 2005 IEEE
Assuming that a plane wave is traversing a layer of low-
loss material, the dielectric properties, c ' and c ' ' , are
calculated from the modulus,
21
S , and phase, , of as
follows:
21
S
( )
2
360
360
1
(


= '
f
c
d
n
c (1)
c
t
c '

= ' '
f
c
d
S
686 . 8
log 20
21
(2)
where c is the speed of light in m/s, f is the frequency in Hz, d
is the thickness of the layer of material in meters, and n is an
integer to be determined [6].
III. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Figures 1 and 2 show variation of the dielectric constant
and loss factor with time at 10 GHz and room temperature.
Both c ' and c ' ' decrease sharply and then reach a plateau
and remain constant. The decrease in magnitude of c '
andc ' ' is larger for higher moisture contents and takes place
over a longer time interval. This is to be expected, because
when more water is added it takes longer for water molecules
to reach a final stage of binding in the wheat kernels. In fact,
this time interval reveals the changes of activation energy as
the binding modes of water molecules change. At microwave
frequencies, water in its liquid form has an activation energy
of 4.5 kcal/mole and single ice crystals have an activation
energy of 13 kcal/mole [2]. In each material, bound water is
characterized by a spectrum of activation energies that lie
somewhere between that of liquid water and that of ice. This
uncertainty constitutes a major obstacle in the modeling of
the dielectric response of bound water.
Data in Figures 1 and 2 were fitted with functions of the
form:
t c
e B A
1
1 1

+ = ' c (3)
t c
e B A
2
2 2

+ = ' ' c (4)


The regression constants and coefficients of determination
are shown in Table1.
Figure 3 shows the Cole-Cole plot for the three tested
moisture levels at a given time of 20 minutes and frequencies
between 5 and 15 GHz. For each moisture level, the data
form an arc in the complex plane, which is characteristic of
the binding status of the water molecules. However, it is a
small portion of the diagram that would illustrate the
distribution of relaxation times over a wider frequency range
[2].
Time, minutes
0 100 200 300 400 500
c'
2.2
2.4
2.6
2.8
3.0
3.2
3.4
3.6
3.8
4.0
4.2
14.4%
17.5%
22.7%
Figure 1. Dielectric constant at 10 GHz and 23
o
C as a function of time for
three samples of Arapahoe hard red winter wheat in which equilibrium
moisture distribution was upset by adding water. Initial moisture content:
10.6%.
Time, minutes
0 100 200 300 400 500
c"
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1.0
1.2
1.4
14.4%
17.5%
22.7%
Figure 2. Dielectric loss factor at 10 GHz and 23
o
C as a function of time for
three samples of Arapahoe hard red winter wheat in which equilibrium
moisture distribution was upset by adding water. Initial moisture content:
10.6%.
370
H'
2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0
H"
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
14.4%
17.5%
22.7%
Figure 3. Cole-Cole plot corresponding to three nonequilibrated moisture
levels of Arapahoe hard red winter wheat between 5 and 15 GHz at 23
o
C
and t=20 min.
IV. CONCLUSIONS
Study of the dielectric response of nonequilibrated
moisture in wheat reveals a first phase of sharp decrease in
both the dielectric constant and loss factor, followed by a
plateau reflecting the final stage of the binding of water.
Investigation of the Cole-Cole diagram corresponding to each
sample of wheat shows a small arc, but remains inconclusive
with regard to the nature of the overall dielectric response. A
wider frequency range is needed for this purpose.
REFERENCES
[1] A. Kraszewski, Microwave Aquametry. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE
Press, 1996.
[2] J. B. Hasted, Aqueous Dielectrics. London: Chapman and Hall,
1973.
[3] S. Sokhansanj and S. O. Nelson, "Transient dielectric properties
of wheat associated with nonequilibrium kernel moisture
conditions," Transactions of the ASAE, vol. 31, pp. 1251-1254,
1988.
[4] S. Trabelsi and S. O. Nelson, "Free-space measurement of
dielectric properties of cereal grain and oilseed at microwave
frequencies," Measurement Science and Technology, vol. 14, pp.
589-600, 2003.
[5] ASAE, "ASAE S352.2 Moisture measurement --- Unground grain
and seeds," in ASAE Standards 2000. St Joseph, MI: American
Society of Agricultural Engineers, 2000, pp. 563.
[6] S. Trabelsi, A. W. Kraszewski, and S. O. Nelson, "Phase-shift
ambiguity in microwave dielectric properties measurements,"
IEEE Transactions on Instrumenation and Measurement, vol. 49,
pp. 56-60, 2000.
Table 1. Regression constants and coefficients of determination corresponding to equation (3) and (4).
Moisture content, % A
1
B
1
C
1
r
1
2
A
2
B
2
C
2
r
2
2
14.4 2.43 0.112 0.033 0.996 0.314 0.068 0.026 0.996
17.5 2.91 0.155 0.027 0.998 0.577 0.129 0.022 0.998
22.7 3.90 0.261 0.017 0.997 1.128 0.232 0.015 0.998
371