Tissue models for RF exposure evaluation at frequencies above 6 GHz

Bioelectromagnetics. 2018 Apr;39(3):173-189. doi: 10.1002/bem.22110. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Exposures to radiofrequency (RF) energy above 6 GHz are characterized by shallow energy penetration, typically limited to the skin, but the subsequent increase in skin temperature is largely determined by heat transport in subcutaneous layers. A detailed analysis of the energy reflection, absorption, and power density distribution requires a knowledge of the properties of the skin layers and their variations. We consider an anatomically detailed model consisting of 3 or 4 layers (stratum corneum, viable epidermis plus dermis, subcutaneous fat, and muscle). The distribution of absorbed power in the different tissue layers is estimated based on electrical properties of the tissue layers inferred from measurements of reflected millimeter wavelength energy from skin, and literature data for the electrical properties of fat and muscle. In addition, the thermal response of the model is obtained using Pennes bioheat equation as well as a modified version incorporating blood flow rate-dependent thermal conductivity that provides a good fit to experimentally-found temperature elevations. A greatly simplified 3-layer model (Dermis, Fat, and Muscle) that assumes surface heating in only the skin layer clarifies the contribution of different tissue layers to the increase in surface skin temperature. The model shows that the increase in surface temperature is, under many circumstances, determined by the thermal resistance of subcutaneous tissues even though the RF energy may be deposited almost entirely in the skin layer. The limits of validity of the models and their relevance to setting safety standards are briefly discussed. Bioelectromagnetics. 39:173-189, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: permittivity; radiofrequency; reflectivity; skin; temperature elevation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Radiation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Temperature / radiation effects