The thermal sensation threshold and its reliability induced by the exposure to 28 GHz millimeter-wave

Akiko Yuasa, Shintaro Uehara, Kazuki Ushizawa, Sachiko Kodera, Norika Arai, Akimasa Hirata, Yohei Otaka

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The application of 28 GHz millimeter-wave is prevalent owing to the global spread of fifth-generation wireless communication systems. Its thermal effect is a dominant factor which potentially causes pain and tissue damage to the body parts exposed to the millimeter waves. However, the threshold of this thermal sensation, that is, the degree of change in skin temperature from the baseline at which the first subjective response to the thermal effects of the millimeter waves occurs, remains unclear. Here, we investigated the thermal sensation threshold and assessed its reliability when exposed to millimeter waves. Twenty healthy adults were exposed to 28 GHz millimeter-wave on their left middle fingertip at five levels of antenna input power: 0.2, 1.1, 1.6, 2.1, and 3.4 W (incident power density: 27–399 mW/cm2). This measurement session was repeated twice on the same day to evaluate the threshold reliability. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and Bland–Altman analysis were used as proxies for the relative and absolute reliability, respectively. The number of participants who perceived a sensation during the two sessions at each exposure level was also counted as the perception rate. Mean thermal sensation thresholds were within 0.9°C–1.0°C for the 126–399 mW/cm2 conditions, while that was 0.2°C for the 27 mW/cm2 condition. The ICCs for the threshold at 27 and 126 mW/cm2 were interpreted as poor and fair, respectively, while those at higher exposure levels were moderate to substantial. Apart from a proportional bias in the 191 mW/cm2 condition, there was no fixed bias. All participants perceived a thermal sensation at 399 mW/cm2 in both sessions, and the perception rate gradually decreased with lower exposure levels. Importantly, two-thirds of the participants answered that they felt a thermal sensation in both or one of the sessions at 27 mW/cm2, despite the low-temperature increase. These results suggest that the thermal sensation threshold is around 1.0°C, consistent across exposure levels, while its reliability increases with higher exposure levels. Furthermore, the perception of thermal sensation may be inherently ambiguous owing to the nature of human perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1331416
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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