microwave magnetron structures
microwave magnetron structures

How Does a Microwave Work? The More You Know

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Microwaving food is often the effortless choice people often choose to do. The rapid heating ability is essentially the one and only thing that makes this stuff so popular. Seeing one microwave oven in all households is pretty common as well. But do you ever wonder how it does its magic? How does a microwave work actually? Satisfy your curiosity by keeping on reading!

The trifle

microwave magnetron structures
microwave magnetron structures

If you take off the side exterior of this unit, you’ll notice a small vacuum tube that pops out right in the middle. The vacuum tube (called magnetron) is responsible for generating the energy that heats food. That’s where the microwave actually gets its power from! Generally speaking, there are three primary components in a microwave: the magnetron itself; a waveguide which is hidden in the wall that serves to direct the energy to the food; a chamber to hold the food and contain the microwave radiation safely

If you’re still confused about how a microwave works, in principle, a microwave works just the same as any other type of heat transfers. Microwaves themselves are a form of energy. These electromagnetic waves fly through space at the speed of light. No one can see microwaves with naked eyes and they are generally shorter than radio waves. However, they are longer than infrared radiation. In terms of cooking, Louis Bloomfield who is a professor of physics at the University of Virginia claims that the microwave used is about twelve cm from crest to crest. At such wavelength, microwaves are voluntarily absorbed by practically any food. And fortunately, photons (particles in a microwave) have no enough energy to harm molecules which could lead to cancer like X-rays or ultraviolet rays.

How they cook food

Now that you know the technicality of what powers on a microwave, here’s how your food becomes edible:

how a microwave works
how a microwave works

Inside the strong metal box, the magnetron or vacuum tube takes electricity from the power outlet and converts it into high-powered radio waves (12 cm). The tube then blasts these waves into the food chamber or compartment through the wave guide. Your food is placed on a turntable, where it would be spinning slowly round in order for the microwave to be able to cook it evenly. The unit then will bounce back and forth off the reflective metal walls of the food chamber, similar to that of the light bounces off a mirror.

Just when the microwaves reach the food, they will not just bounce off but rather penetrate inside the food as well. As they pass through it, the microwaves make the molecules inside the food vibrate more quickly.

Vibrating molecules possess heat and so, logically the faster they vibrate, the hotter your food becomes. Therefore, the microwaves pass their energy onto the molecules contained in the food, heating it up rapidly.

Most ovens will have heat pass from electric heating elements/gas burners situated on the sides or in the bottom of the cooker into the food, which happens to cook mainly by conduction from the outside in (from the outer layers to the inner layers). That’s why, when you cook a cake in a conventional microwave oven, it will get burned on the edges while not being cooked at all in the middle.

To conclude, how does a microwave work? It cooks every food by simultaneously exciting molecules right through the food.

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