Microwave dielectric heating is rapidly becoming an established procedure in synthetic chemistry. This review summarises the basic theory underlying microwave dielectric heating and collates the dielectric data for a wide range of organic solvents which are commmonly used in microwave syntheses. The loss tangents of the solvents, which may be related to the ability of the solvent to absorb energy in a microwave cavity, depend on the relaxation times of the molecules. These relaxation times depend critically on the nature of the functional groups and the volume of the molecule. Functional groups capable of hydrogenbonding have a particularly strong influence on the relaxation times. The relaxation times of solvents decrease as the temperature of the solvent is increased. Loss tangent data at different microwave frequencies are also presented and discussed.
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