The Bioelectromagnetic Research Group is currently involved in a range of projects, including:
- The effect of GHz/THz exposure on tissue
- Public exposure to wireless technologies
- Active metallic implants
- Radiofrequency (RF) ablation modelling
- Radiofrequency (RF) energy absorption in telecommunications workers exposed to extreme climatic conditions
- Dosimetry support
The effect of GHz/THz exposure on tissue
Radio applications continue to evolve into higher and higher frequencies of operation in the pursuit of higher speed and broader bandwidth capabilities. Applications being developed in the GHz/THz region are beginning to appear and will proliferate in the coming decade.
To assess the potential effects of human exposure to wireless technologies in these new frequency ranges, we are developing fine structure models of affected tissue (skin, eyes) incorporating small entities (e.g. skin glands, nerve fibres and capillaries) to apply in analyses of potential effects. Due to the very short wavelengths, especially in tissues, of signals at these frequencies, these small-scale structures may become important interaction mechanisms. However, until now they have been absorbed into bulk properties describing larger tissue components.
We are using novel approaches to model skin and corneal tissue to determine the dielectric parameters of particular tissues in the range 30GHz–30THz. We are also examining THz absorption by bacterial and other spores, since these are an important component of the skin biome.
Dr Zoltan Vilagosh
The number and variety of wireless sources individuals may be exposed to is increasing exponentially. We have already at least partly investigated individual contributions from current technology sources via our trial study of wireless devices in Australian homes, but the combination of the evolving suite of wireless technologies present today has not been defined and addressed.
We seek to characterise the current state of wireless exposure and use our knowledge of newly emerging and likely future technologies to extrapolate predictions for near- and medium-term future wireless exposure environments.
We are undertaking a program of field measurements in environments where the public may be exposed to new and emerging wireless technologies (such as wi-fi, WiMax, 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE+ and smart meters) to characterise the current integrated exposure of individuals and group populations to cumulative wireless sources. We will then extrapolate our findings to examine likely future scenarios based on knowledge drawn from our industry collaborations. Typical environments include homes, workplaces, schools, and other public spaces, such as shopping centres and hospitals.
Dr Steve Iskra
This project investigates the interaction of electromagnetic fields with medical metallic implants, including heart defibrillators, nerve stimulators, cochlear implants and retinal implants.
When wireless devices are used by people with such implants, the electromagnetic fields may be concentrated and therefore produce higher local exposures than in individuals without such implants. Implants with long conductive leads may act as an antenna, causing enhanced pickup and higher local exposure at the tips.
The degree of exposure enhancement has not been well determined in realistic scenarios, yet poses a potentially serious health concern. Local heating of sensitive nerve tissue could lead to changes in nerve function or even permanent damage, for example.
This project builds on previous work using Swinburne/Telstra's internationally recognised EM and thermal modelling platforms to produce detailed models of both implants and implanted tissue regions to establish the extent of any potential exposure effects.
Dr Robert McIntosh
This project is investigating the creation of electromagnetic models to assess variation in electric properties of tissue and temperature while conducting radiofrequency ablation treatments.
RF ablation, using catheters inserted into the body, is a widely-used therapeutic approach to the treatment of tumours and other lesions, particularly in the liver. The rise in temperature produced by the RF leads to tumour destruction.
Radiofrequency (RF) energy absorption in telecommunications workers exposed to extreme climatic conditions
Modelling of RF energy absorption has, until now, assumed moderate environmental conditions. We are examining the effects of high temperature and humidity on the temperature rise produced in the body by RF absorption, to discover whether thermoregulatory mechanisms could be compromised. In addition, we are looking to see if physical activity or body stature might influence thermoregulation in respect to RF exposure.
Dr Robert McIntosh
Within the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR), having accurate and validated means for estimating RF energy deposition rate into all regions of the investigated biological system is crucial. The Bioelectromagnetic Research Group provides dosimetry support not only to other projects within ACEBR, but also to other researchers within Australia who wish to ensure the validity of their exposure systems.