What are Microwaves? Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic energy, like light waves or radio waves Microwaves are used extensively in communications such as to relay long-distance telephone signals, television programs and computer information across the earth or to a satellite in space. Good for transmitting information because it can penetrate haze, light rain and snow, clouds, and smoke. Also used in radars and in detecting speeding cars. Microwave has become most familiar as the energy source for cooking food.
Electromagnetic Spectrum Electromagnetic radiation exists in a Table 1: Frequency and Wavelength Range of Each Radiation range of frequencies Type in the Electromagnetic Spectrum. called the Radiation Type Frequency Range (Hz) Wavelength Range electromagnetic Gamma rays above 3 x 1019 < 10-12 m spectrum. X-rays 3 x 1017 - 3 x 1019 1 nm - 1 pm Each frequency has a Ultraviolet Radiation 7.5 x 1014 - 3 x 1017 400 nm - 1 nm specific wavelength and Visible Spectrum 3.8 x 1014 - 7.5 x 1014 750 nm - 380 nm as the frequency Infrared Radiation 1011 - 3.8 x 1014 25 um - 2.5 um Microwaves 108 - 1012 1 mm - 25 um decreases, the actual Radio waves 104 - 108 >1 mm length of the wave gets longer.
History Invented accidentally by Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer While testing a magnetron during work, he discovered the candy bar in his pocket melted Experimented with other food products (popcorn and eggs), and realized microwaves can cook foods quickly At 1947, 1st commercial microwave oven produced (called Radarange) Mostly used by restaurants, railroad cars, ocean liners and military Improvement and refinements made ~ by 1967, 1st domestic microwave oven produced
How the Oven Works Electricity from the wall outlet travels through the power cord and enters the microwave oven through a series of fuse and safety protection circuits These circuits include various fuses and thermal protectors that are designed to deactivate the oven in the event of an electrical short or if an overheating condition occurs When the oven door is closed, an electrical path is also established through a series of safety interlock switches
• Sensing that all systems are set to go, the signal activates triac, producinga voltage path to the high-voltage transformer.• The high-voltage transformer along with a special diode and capacitorarrangement increases the typical household voltage from ~115 volts to ~3000volts
• The magnetron converts the high voltage in to the microwave frequency for cooking• The microwave energy is transmitted into a waveguide• The waveguide feeds the energy to the stirrer blade and into the cooking area• When the door is opened, or the timer reaches zero, the microwave energy stops.
MagnetronElectrons from a hot filament would travel radially to the outside ring if it were not for the magnetic field.The magnetic force deflects them as shown and they tend to sweep around the circle. In doing so, they “pump” the natural frequency of the cavities. The currents around the resonant cavities cause them to radiate electromagnetic energy at that resonant frequency.
How Foods Get Cooked The microwaves that penetrate the food have an electric field that oscillates 2.45 billion times a second, a frequency that is well absorbed by polar liquid molecules such as water, sugars, fats and other food molecules. Water interacts with the microwave: flipping its orientation back and forth very rapidly bumping into one another and producing heat, cooking the food. Glass, paper, ceramic, or plastic containers are used in microwave cooking because the microwaves pass through them Metal reflects microwaves Unsafe to have metal pans/aluminum foil in oven, may damage oven
Health Hazards It is known that microwave radiation can heat body tissue the same way it heats food. Exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause a painful burn Ex. the lens of the eye ~ exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause cataracts. Microwave oven used low level of microwaves, within the region of non-ionizing radiation Still uncertain in the effects of humans from long term exposure to low level of microwaves Still experimenting Best to stay a way (an arm’s length) in reducing exposure to microwaves
References1. Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. http://www.dal.ca/~ehs/files/microwave.safety.pdf2. Homepage of Central Valley Christian School. http://home.cvc.org/microwaves/3. Nave, C. R. Hyperphysics. Georgia State University. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/waves/magnetron.html4. Microtech: The Complete Microwave Oven Repair and Information Network. http://www.gallawa.com/microtech/index.html5. Wright, Michael and Mukul Patel. Scientific American: How Things Work Today. New York: Marshall Editions Development Ltd., 2000.