Dielectric properties of pharmaceutical materials relevant to microwave processing: Effects of field frequency, material density, and moisture content

Paul W.S. Heng, Z. H. Loh, Celine V. Liew, C. C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The rising popularity of microwaves for drying, material processing and quality sensing has fuelled the need for knowledge concerning dielectric properties of common pharmaceutical materials. This article represents one of the few reports on the density and moisture content dependence of the dielectric properties of primary pharmaceutical materials and their relevance to microwave-assisted processing. Dielectric constants (ε′) and losses (ε″) of 13 pharmaceutical materials were measured over a frequency range of 1 MHz-1GHz at 23±1°C using a parallel-electrode measurement system. Effects of field frequency, material density and moisture content on dielectric properties were studied. Material dielectric properties varied considerably with frequency. At microwave frequencies, linear relationships were established between cube-root functions of the dielectric parameters ( 3√ε′ and 3√ε″) and density which enabled dielectric properties of materials at various densities to be estimated by regression. Moisture content was the main factor that contributed to the disparities in dielectric properties and heating capabilities of the materials in a laboratory microwave oven. The effectiveness of a single frequency density-independent dielectric function for moisture sensing applications was explored and found to be suitable within low ranges of moisture contents for a model material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-957
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Compaction
  • Dielectric properties
  • Excipients
  • Microwave frequency
  • Physical characterization
  • Powder technology
  • Preformulation
  • Processing
  • Solid state
  • Water in solids

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