Category Archives: How Does It Work?

How Does It Work? – Microwave Edition

How Does It Work Series

Microwave Edition


Image Credit: ryawesome via Flickr

Today we look at how microwave ovens actually work.

I don’t know about you but I enjoy expanding my knowledge and quite honestly if my kids were to ask me how a microwave works I would not be able to explain it!

My best response would be “a microwave uses electricity”; which is an extremely absurd response.

First let’s learn a little more about microwaves.

A Brief History of the Microwave

In 1939 a man by the name of Percy Spencer was working for a company called Raytheon. One day when he was working on building magnetrons for radar sets, he noticed that after standing in front of an active radar set, that the chocolate bar he had had in his pocket was completely melted.

He was not the first one to notice that the active radar sets had this affect. However, he was the first one to investigate it further.

Mr Spencer and his colleagues proceeded to try heating different foods to see what might happen. Eventually he designed and built what we might call the first true microwave oven. You can read more about it HERE.

The first commercially produced microwave oven, called the Radarange was patented by Raytheon in 1945.

It was about 6′ tall and weighed around 750lbs. The Radarange cost approximately $5000.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Raytheon later licensed its patents for a home-use microwave oven that was first introduced byTappan in 1955, but these units were still too large and expensive for general home use. ” ~Source:

It was not until about 20 years after Mr Spencer sold the first Radarange in 1946, that the first microwave oven became available to the public by the Amana Corporation.

Photo credit: Marcin Wichary / Foter / CC BY

 When I asked Google :How is food cooked in a microwave?

I received this answer: Microwaves are produced inside the microwave oven by an electron tube called a magnetron. The microwaves are reflected within the metal interior of the oven where they are absorbed by food. Microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food.

I wanted to give you a great image and explanation of how a microwave works, however, when I found the perfect and easiest explanation to use, the website had a request not to use their info on blogs….so you can go

——————->>>>>> HERE <<<<<—————— for great graphics and explanation of how microwaves work!

Now, you want to be able to explain it to your kids? Check this out!

How Microwaves Work <—-more explanation there (and another video to show the microwaves in a microwave!)

I definitely took on more than I could chew with this edition of “How Does It Work” but, hopefully you have enjoyed it and learned something new!

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