Radio frequency (RF) is on the lowest portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s most commonly known as the medium for broadcasting analog and digital wireless communications like radio, television, aircraft navigation, satellite systems, and mobile networks.
Frequency bands range from 3KHz to 300GHz. Ultra High Frequency (UHF) is the most commonly used part of the spectrum. UHF spans from 300MHz to 3GHz and is used for GPS, pagers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, TV, and the all-important GSM, CDMA, and LTE mobile transmissions.
Any transmission higher than 3GHz requires a line of sight path to operate; obstructions will break the communication. Successfully rolling out 5G network communications will be tricky due to this line of sight requirement. Obstructions like cars, trees, and buildings would cause serious performance issues.
While the tech companies focus on using radio frequency for communications, here are several ways you probably didn’t know RF is being used today:
1. Skin tightening
There are devices on the market that use radio frequency to tighten skin. Delivering RF to the dermis – the second layer of skin – heats up the collagen contained within it. When that collagen reaches a specific temperature, its fibers tighten and cells are triggered to produce more collagen. Skin tightens due to the immediate fiber contraction and the filling out of more collagen.
Unfortunately, there are no concrete scientific studies that show exactly how effective these devices are. Some people see results after one treatment, while others don’t see noticeable results for several years. Even if a person doesn’t end up with tighter skin, the extra collagen could be beneficial for anti-aging purposes.
2. Guiding missiles and stopping guided missiles
The average person (hopefully) doesn’t use radio frequency to guide missiles, but the U.S. military certainly does. In fact, the military’s defense systems heavily rely on RF, and frequently use RF and infrared decoys. They also use RF countermeasures to identify and stop RF guided missiles launched by the enemy. Using RF as a countermeasure emits waveforms that confuse or act as a decoy to an adversary radar-guided weapon.
3. Pain relief
A process called Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) is commonly used to spot-reduce pain. The most common conditions RFA is used to treat are chronic back and neck pain and arthritis. Pain relief can last 6-12 months, or years. The good news is about 70% of people experience pain relief from RFA.
You’re probably familiar with the acronym RFID – it stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID is what powers the microchip in your pet and in some bank cards. RFID chips can store a range of information from a string of numbers to several pages of data.
Many corporations use RFID chips to permit entry into restricted areas, track equipment or products, control inventory, track personnel, ensure patients receive the correct medication, and store data for electronic medical record systems.
5. Stair lifts
Stair lifts can operate on infrared or radio frequency. Stair lifts using radio frequency have a longer range than ones using infrared, but the downside is other products can interfere with it. Devices like smart meters, smoke alarms, garage door openers, drones, RC toys, and wireless devices in general. Still, radio frequency powered remotes for stair lifts (and other home devices) are common.
6. Heating and drying
In a commercial setting, radio frequency is used to dry ceramics, foam, fiberglass, composites, textiles, wood, and paper. It’s also used in pasteurization.
Foam, for example, is dried with heat generated by a combination of convection and radio frequency. Ceramic fiberboard dry faster with less binder migration when subjected to radio frequency. The purity and quality of ceramic powders is preserved with RF, too.
RF is useful
If you thought radio frequency was just for Wi-Fi and cellphones, now you’re aware of other uses. Available frequencies might be limited, but the usefulness of RF is infinite.