Nanometer-Resolved Radio-Frequency Absorption and Heating in Biomembrane Hydration Layers

S. Gekle and R. R. Netz, J. Phys. Chem. B, 118, 4963

News from Apr 29, 2014

Radio-frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields are readily absorbed in biological matter and lead to dielectric heating. To understand how RF radiation interacts with macromolecular structures and possibly influences biological function, a quantitative description of dielectric absorption and heating at nanometer resolution beyond the usual effective medium approach is crucial. We report an exemplary multiscale theoretical study for biomembranes that combines (i) atomistic simulations for the spatially resolved absorption spectrum at a single planar DPPC lipid bilayer immersed in water, (ii) calculation of the electric field distribution in planar and spherical cell models, and (iii) prediction of the nanometer resolved temperature profiles under steady RF radiation. Our atomistic simulations show that the only 2 nm thick lipid hydration layer strongly absorbs in a wide RF range between 10 MHz and 100 GHz. The absorption strength, however, strongly depends on the direction of the incident wave. This requires modeling of the electric field distribution using tensorial dielectric spectral functions. For a spherical cell model, we find a strongly enhanced RF absorption on an equatorial ring, which gives rise to temperature gradients inside a single cell under radiation. Although absolute temperature elevation is small under conditions of typical telecommunication usage, our study points to hitherto neglected temperature gradient effects and allows thermal RF effects to be predicted on an atomistically resolved level. In addition to a refined physiological risk assessment of RF fields, technological applications for controlling temperature profiles in nanodevices are possible. doi

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