Microwave ovens: invented accidentally and became an essential device in homes

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

The microwave is adored for its efficiency and simplicity. But when the microwave was created is something you might need to be aware of despite it being a necessary kitchen tool. The truth is that it was developed by accident more than 70 years ago when Percy Spencer, a Raytheon engineer, found his lunch had melted while testing a military-grade magnetron.

History of the microwave oven 

According to the company history of Raytheon, Spencer realized that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted when he was testing a magnetron. Spencer experimented with different items, including popcorn seeds, and discovered that they all popped. He placed an egg close to the magnetron and watched as it began to vibrate before blowing up. Spencer understood that the meal had come into contact with low-density microwave energy. Then he constructed a metal box and supplied it with microwave radiation. Because microwaves cannot flow through metal, the power entered the box but could not exit. Spencer found microwaves could cook food faster than conventional ovens that utilized heat. In 1945, he submitted a patent application.

In 1947, the first microwave oven used for commercial purposes was tested in a Boston restaurant. Raytheon unveiled the Radarange 1161 later that year. According to Gallawa, it was 5.5 feet (1.7 metres) tall, weighed 750 lbs. (340 kg), and cost $5,000. The magnetron was water-cooled; hence it needed to be connected to a water supply. It took some time for people to overcome their initial resistance, but as technology advanced, microwave oven use became increasingly common, especially in the food business. For example, restaurants might microwave-cooked recipes on demand and store them in the refrigerator to save waste. Other restaurants and food-related companies used microwaves to roast coffee beans, roast peanuts, defrost and cook meat, and even peel oysters.

Microwave heating has also been used in other sectors. According to Gallawa, microwave ovens also dry welding rods, wood, ceramics, paper, leather, tobacco, fabrics, pencils, and flowers.

microwave oven


According to the World Health Organization, microwave ovens use radio waves tuned to a specific frequency of 2,450 megahertz and have a power range of 500 to 1,100 watts. The microwaves are directed at the food as it is placed in a microwave oven. The water molecules absorb the microwaves in the meal, and the resulting vibrations cause heat to be produced, which cooks the food. It is not advisable to use metal containers or utensils in a microwave oven since microwaves can pass through the plastic, glass, and ceramic but not metal.

A magnetron creates microwaves. Two permanent magnets on either side of a vacuum tube make up a magnetron. According to Tech-Faq, the passage of electrons creates magnetic and electric fields, emitting microwave radiation. Microwaves are focused on the oven chamber to heat and cook the food.

Future of microwave oven

Today, many microwave ovens have sensors that turn off when the food is fully cooked. Samsung has created a microwave oven with multiple cooking options. The oven can cook and bake in addition to defrosting meats and warming leftovers. Additionally, it contains a fermentation cycle that may produce yoghurt and fresh dough.

Solid-state RF (radio frequency) energy is used in a microwave oven made by NXP Semiconductors to cook food. The microwave oven regulates the location, timing, and quantity of energy sent into the meal. According to NXP, the outcome has increased consistency, flavour, and nutrition. In addition, the solid-state gadget enables efficient and real-time feedback control of enormous volumes of energy.

Other businesses, like Wayv, manufacture mobile, solid-state RF microwave ovens powered by standard outlets, automobiles, or solar panels. This type, which resembles a thermos, can heat up to 17 fluid ounces (0.5 litres) for about 30 minutes on each charge.

Additionally, capabilities are being added to microwaves so they may connect to mobile devices, like the LG series of smart appliances. These appliances can be remotely turned on from any location using a smartphone or other device.

Are microwave ovens safe?

An example of “electromagnetic” radiation microwaves. This implies that electromagnetic and electrical energy waves move together through space. Radio waves and X-rays are not the same as microwaves. Ionizing radiation, like X-rays, can change atoms and molecules and harm cells. Therefore, body damage from ionizing radiation is possible. However, microwaves’ non-ionizing radiation is not dangerous.

Cancer is not caused by microwave radiation, and there is no concrete evidence to link the two. Likewise, your food is not rendered radioactive by microwave radiation either. You are merely heating your food.

Microwaves only emit non-ionizing radiation while they are turned on and cooking. The food absorbs all the microwaves generated within your oven. The design of microwaves prevents electromagnetic radiation from escaping the oven. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does recommend checking your microwave to see if it has been tampered with or is faulty. Additionally, they advise not standing in front of or right up to your microwave while it is on.

To ensure that radiation emissions don’t represent a danger to the general population, the FDA has established the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). The total number of safely leaking microwaves over a microwave oven’s lifetime is capped by a regulatory requirement. This is far less than any amount that could endanger you.

Additionally, the impact of microwave energy decreases with distance from the radiation source. Additionally, all ovens come equipped with a standard interlock system that disables the microwave when the door is opened.

The FDA conducts quality control checks and radiation testing on microwave ovens in their facility.

Although radiation from microwave ovens doesn’t cause cancer, if you’re exposed to it, it can nevertheless result in severe burns. Similar to how it cooks food, microwave radiation can also heat bodily tissue. However, only massive doses of microwave radiation can result in severe burns.

Non-ionizing radiation includes radio waves, microwaves, and visible light. UV light is the only non-ionizing radiation that can cause cancer. In conclusion, microwaves are safe and do not harm human health, including cancer development.

You can change your microwave to a newer one if you’re concerned that it’s too old or leaking radiation. For example, it might be time to upgrade if you’ve owned your microwave oven for over ten years. It might be preferable to leave the room while the microwave cooks if you have an older microwave you wish to save. The only purpose of this is to protect you from any potential radiation leaks.

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