How do Microwave Ovens Work?

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published Date: 13 February 2011
thumbnail image: How do Microwave Ovens Work?

One way to speed up the process of heating up your dinner is to use a microwave oven. Microwaves can be used to heat food in times that put conventional ovens to shame. But how do they do it?

Conventional cooking methods such as stove tops and ovens rely on conduction to heat food: Neighboring atoms pass thermal energy to each other until there is a constant temperature throughout. The thermal energy comes from an external source meaning this can be a slow process depending on the material that has to be heated. Each material, including food, has a different thermal capacity, or rate at which it absorbs heat. Ham, for example, has a heat capacity of 2.6 kJ/kg while tomatoes have a heat capacity of 3.98 kJ/kg — This is why tomatoes heat up quicker and retain their heat longer than ham.

Microwaves are quicker than conventional ovens as they essentially cook the food from the inside. Water molecules within the food are excited by microwave radiation. The molecules move and collide with each other, generating heat. This means there is no thermal gradient and no waiting for the heat to reach the center of the food – microwaves heat all parts of your dinner simultaneously!

Article Views: 18976

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from, please contact us first for permission and consult our permission guidance prior to making your request

Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on YouTube Follow on LinkedIn Follow on Instagram RSS Sign up for newsletters

Magazine of Chemistry Europe (16 European Chemical Societies) published by Wiley-VCH