Microwave heating has for years been successfully used for some polymer applications, especially in preheating or continous vulcanization of rubber and also for crosslinking of thermosets. It may therefore seem surprising to find how little woork has been reported on the use of dielectric heating of thermoplastic resins. Certainly a major reason is that very few thermoplastics have dielectric properties making them respond to high frequency electromagnetic fields, or their response is inadequate for practical applications.
Many processes could benefit from the many advantages of dielectric heating if the most suitable polymer could be made to absorb such energy. Therefore a study was undertaken to find additives which in small amounts could render virtually all polymers, especially the thermoplastic ones, responsive to microwave or radio frequency electromagnetic energy without significantly changing processing and physical properties.
A series of such sensitizers was developed. Some of these are now commercially available as white, fine particle size, freeflowing powders and others are colorless liquids. Their use will depend on polymer type and application, but their common objective is to substantially increase the material's loss factor.
Selected tests with difficult to process ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHWPE) and polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) proved that the sensitizers in low concentration will allow dielectric heating of unresponsive polymers with potential for important advantages in cost and quality.