November 26, 2019
Its target is to enable autonomous driving or intelligent factories: The introduction of the 5G mobile communications standard next year is associated with high expectations, but also with concerns regarding the health consequences of the technology. A team of Jacobs University scientists led by Dr. Alexander Lerchl, Professor of Biology and Ethics, will now examine the effects of 5G on human cells. The project is funded with 1.1 million euros by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection. It entails the creation of three new scientific positions at the private university.
Starting in 2020, the next mobile communications generation 5G will be available. It will be up to 100 times faster than the previous 4G standard and will enable real-time data transmission. In the first step of the introduction, frequencies will be used that are already common for mobile communications today. In a few years, however, new frequency bands in the 26 to 28 gigahertz range and above 40 gigahertz will be added. These frequencies are the focus of the research project.
"The absorption of the radio waves takes place exclusively in the upper skin layers. Using cell cultures of the skin, we will, therefore, investigate whether the genetic information is altered by electromagnetic radiation," explains Lerchl. Bioinformatics expertise is needed to analyze the many thousands of genes. Professor Dr. Marc-Thorsten Hütt, systems biologist at Jacobs University, is therefore involved in the project. Also involved are the Seibersdorf Laboratories from Austria, which design and manufacture the exposure systems.
While the effect of existing mobile radio frequencies on humans has been well researched, Lerchl and his team are breaking new ground with this project, which is scheduled to last for about three years. "The exposure systems and the experimental design are particularly critical at these frequencies in order to avoid artefacts," says the biologist. Professor Lerchl is certain: "We will achieve robust results."