Dagro AM, Wilkerson JW, Thomas TP, Kalinosky BT, Payne JA. Computational modeling investigation of pulsed high peak power microwaves and the potential for traumatic brain injury. Sci Adv. 2021 Oct 29;7(44):eabd8405. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd8405. Epub 2021 Oct 29. PMID: 34714682; PMCID: PMC8555891.
When considering safety standards for human exposure to radiofrequency (RF) and microwave energy, the dominant concerns pertain to a thermal effect. However, in the case of high-power pulsed RF/microwave energy, a rapid thermal expansion can lead to stress waves within the body. In this study, a computational model is used to estimate the temperature profile in the human brain resulting from exposure to various RF/microwave incident field parameters. The temperatures are subsequently used to simulate the resulting mechanical response of the brain. Our simulations show that, for certain extremely high-power microwave exposures (permissible by current safety standards), very high stresses may occur within the brain that may have implications for neuropathological effects. Although the required power densities are orders of magnitude larger than most real-world exposure conditions, they can be achieved with devices meant to emit high-power electromagnetic pulses in military and research applications.