Crushing and grinding are primary contributors to a high energy demand in the mining industry, yet, both are surprisingly inefficient processes, often with efficiencies as low as 1%. We analyze size reductions during crushing and
grinding operations and explore the potential of multiplying internal weaknesses in rock materials by non-mechanical means. In particular, when rock blocks (wet or even dry if polycrystalline) are exposed to microwaves, internal cracks can develop along grain boundaries via differential thermal expansion between grains and volumetric thermal expansion of water in pores. Brazilian tests conducted on granite and cement mortar specimens show that the tensile strength decreases proportional to the duration of microwave treatment. Thermal changes, excessive fluid pressure
buildup and induced stresses are analyzed in the context of hydro-thermomechanically coupled processes. Results confirm that both differential thermal expansion of mineral grains and volumetric thermal expansion of water can generate cracks upon microwave exposure. Optimal conditions are suggested to lower the combined consumption of electric and mechanical energy.