Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Objective Truth About the Microwave

Article Written By: Anjiya


Microwaves are magic. They transform frozen blocks into mouth watering food. Meals that would otherwise take hours to cook can be nuked to desired temperatures in just minutes. A microwave, magic aside, is a simple device. It’s a box that shoots waves at a frequency of approximately 2.45 gigahertz which translates to a wavelength of approximately 12 cm. The waves at this specific frequency are absorbed by water, fats, and sugars to create heat so plates and bowls are not heated. That’s it.

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of the microwave oven. The first countertop microwave was sold in 1967 for $495. Expensive, yes, but it was the latest prototype of a device that once weighed 750 pounds and sold for $5,000 in 1946. By the mid 1980s, microwaves could be found in 25% of U.S. households, quickly rising to a whopping 90% in 1997. 

The original story is quite simple: the rising radar needs of WWII demanded for faster production of the magnetron (i.e. devices that generated radio waves) and so, engineer Percy Spencer redesigned the device so that its components could be punched out from sheet metal rather than each part needing to be individually machined which allowed mass production of magnetrons.
While working one day, he noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had started to melt and suspected that waves from the magnetron were causing this. So to verify his theory, he pointed the radar beam at a raw egg - the egg exploded from rapid heating. Another experiment with corn kernels showed that radio waves could quickly make popcorn. A patent soon followed and the Radarange was born.

This mysterious little box is practically in every household, let’s hope this article did justice in demystifying its history and workings.

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