Real-time Non-contact Millimeter Wave Characterization of Water-Freezing and Ice-Melting Dynamics

  • Sudhandra Sundaram
  • S. K. Sundaram
  • Paul P. Woskov


We applied millimeter wave radiometry for the first time to monitor water-freezing and ice-melting dynamics in real-time non-contact. The measurements were completed at a frequency of 137 GHz. Small amounts (about 2 mL) of freshwater or saltwater were frozen over a Peltier cooler and the freezing and melting sequence was recorded. Saltwater was prepared in the laboratory that contained 3.5% of table salt to simulate the ocean water. The dynamics of freezing-melting was observed by measuring the millimeter wave temperature as well as the changes in the ice or water surface reflectivity and position. This was repeated using large amounts of freshwater and saltwater (800 mL) mimicking glaciers. Millimeter wave surface level fluctuations indicated as the top surface melted, the light ice below floated up indicating lower surface temperature until the ice completely melted. Our results are useful for remote sensing and tracking temperature for potentially large-scale environmental applications, e.g., global warming.


Millimeter wave reflectivity Freezing Melting Fresh/sea water Remote sensing Global warming 



SKS acknowledges support from the DOE’s Environment Management Science Program (EMSP). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is a multi-program national laboratory operated by Battelle Memorial Institute for the United States Department of Energy under DE-AC06-76RLO 1830.


  1. 1.
    W. A.Cumming, The dielectric properties of ice and snow at 3.2 centimeters. Journal of Applied Physics 23(7), 768–773 (1952).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    J.Perry, and A. W.Straiton, Dielectric constant of ice 35.3 and 94.5 GHz. Journal of Applied Physics 43(2), 731–733 (1972).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    J.Perry, and A. W.Straiton, Revision of dielectric-constant of ice in millimeter-wave spectrum. Journal of Applied Physics 44(11), 5180–5180 (1973).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    M. R.Vant, R. B.Gray, R. O.Ramseier, and V.Makios, Dielectric properties of fresh and sea ice at 10 and 35 GHz. Journal of Applied Physics 45(11), 4712–4717 (1974).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    C.Mätzler, and U.Wegmüller, Dielectric properties of freshwater ice at microwave frequencies. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 20, 1623–1630 (1987).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    G.Koh, Dielectric properties of ice at millimeter wavelengths. Geophysical Research Letters 24(18), 2311–2313 (1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    J. H.Jiang, and D. L.Wu, Ice and water permittivities for millimeter and sub-millimeter remote sensing applications. Atmospheric Science Letter 5, 146–151 (2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    H. J.Liebe, G. A.Hufford, and T.Manabe, A model for the complex permittivity of water at frequencies below 1 THz. International Journal of Infrared and Millimeter Waves 12(7), 659–674 (1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    G.Hufford, A model for the complex permittivity of ice at frequencies below 1 THz. International Journal of Infrared and Millimeter Waves 12(7), 677–682 (1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Oguci, T. (1966). Scattering and absorption of a millimeter wave due to melting ice spheres. Proc. of the IEEE 883–885.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    W.Zhang, E.Salonen, and S.Karhu, Calculations of millimeter wave depolarization due to melting layer and rain. International Journal of Infrared and Millimeter Waves 12(5), 543–556 (1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    M.Maya, S.Kenji, O.Yuichi, O.Chiko, and K.Kodo, Monitoring of water content and frozen state by using millimeter wave absorption features. Transactions of the Institute of Electrical Engineering of Japan. E 125(5), 229–233 (2005).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    X.Sun, H.Wang, Y.Han, and X.Shi, A new melting particle model and its application to scattering of radiowaves by a melting layer of precipitation. International Journal of Infrared and Millimeter Waves 28, 993–1001 (2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    J. E.Kendral, F. T.Ulaby, and S.Wu, A millimeter wave technique for measuring ice thickness on the Space Shuttle’s external tank. International Journal of Infrared and Millimeter Waves 12(12), 1349–1377 (1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Feher, L. Compact millimeter wave technical system for deicing and/or preventing the formation of ice on the outer surface of hollow or shell structures exposed to meteorological influences, European patent EP1284903, Published on 02/26/2003.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    P. P.Woskov, and S. K.Sundaram, Thermal return reflection method for resolving emissivity and temperature in radiometric measurements. Journal of Applied Physics 92(10), 6302–6310 (2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sudhandra Sundaram
    • 1
  • S. K. Sundaram
    • 2
  • Paul P. Woskov
    • 3
  1. 1.Phillips AcademyAndoverUSA
  2. 2.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA
  3. 3.Plasma Science and Fusion CenterMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations