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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SENSING METHODS & INSTRUMENTATION FOR RAPID DETERMINATION OF MOISTURE CONTENT... AND OTHER QUALITY ATTRIBUTES OF GRAINS, SEEDS, & NUTS

Location: Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit

Title: A Century of Grain and Seed Moisture Sensing through Electrical Properties

Authors
item Trabelsi, Samir
item Nelson, Stuart -

Submitted to: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 22, 2011
Publication Date: August 7, 2011
Citation: Trabelsi, S., Nelson, S. 2011. A Century of Grain and Seed Moisture Sensing through Electrical Properties. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. ASABE Paper No. 1110850.

Interpretive Summary: Permittivities or dielectric properties of materials are electrical characteristics that determine how materials interact with electric fields. For example, these properties determine how rapidly the material will heat in a microwave oven. The dielectric properties of grain and seed are highly correlated with their moisture content, so electronic instruments have been designed to sense these properties for rapid measurement of grain and seed moisture content. Such grain and seed moisture meters have long been used for determination of grain moisture content when it is traded and when it is put into storage. Improvements in grain moisture meters and grain moisture monitoring equipment are desirable, because moisture content is such an important factor in determining safe storability of grain and seed. The historical development of grain and seed moisture meters is outlined in this paper, and a review of the pertinent literature reporting grain and seed dielectric properties and their measurement is included. Fundamental definitions of dielectric properties are given, and a discussion of the factors, such as frequency, moisture content, grain bulk density, and temperature, is included. Currently used moisture meters use frequencies between 1 and 20 MHz for sensing the dielectric properties and providing moisture contents of grain and seed. Microwave frequencies well above those in current use have shown promise for improving the reliability of such instruments. Therefore, those studies are reviewed and the fundamental principles in simultaneously sensing moisture content and grain and seed bulk density as well are presented. The microwave measurements can be used for reliable measurements of grain and seed moisture content in static and flowing grain, so they offer promise for improved monitoring of moisture in granular materials. These advances will aid the commercial development of new techniques for practical use and provide new tools for managing moisture content and quality of grain and oilseed and their products for the benefit of producers, handlers, processors, and consumers.

Technical Abstract: The importance of moisture measurement in grain and seed is discussed, and a brief history of the development of electrical moisture sensing instruments, based on sensing electrical properties of these materials, is presented. Data are presented graphically on the permittivities or dielectric properties of grain and seed showing their variation with frequency, moisture content, temperature, and bulk density, and references are cited for further information. More recent developments in microwave measurements for moisture content and bulk density sensing are briefly described, and numerous studies are cited providing sources of information on these newer techniques.

Last Modified: 10/23/2014