Did you ask yourself, what if microwave ovens were not invented? Did it ever occur to you before? If not yet, then how about now?
Heating and cooking foods like popping popcorn kernels are simply some of the features of microwave ovens. There’s no doubt that microwaves provide a quick and convenient way to make or heat different meals. However, not many know how this mysterious metal box that meets the eye came to be.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how microwaves came to be and who is the person glorified behind their creation? If yes, then you are at the right place. This article will dig deeper into who invented the microwave oven, how he came up with the idea and its evolution.
What Is a Magnetron?
Before diving into who invented the microwave, let’s look at the magnetron. The magnetron is a device that made the invention of the microwave possible. So what is a magnetron?
A magnetron is a device that makes the production of electromagnetic waves of a small wavelength (microwaves) possible. It was a crucial component during World War II since it was used to develop short-wavelength radar detection.
On the flip side of microwave ovens, the magnetron generates microwaves from the power outlets. So what are microwaves? Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation.
Radiation consists of a broad spectrum of waves, including short gamma waves and long radio waves. However, the only waves that the human eye can perceive are visible light waves. Microwave energy is a form of non-ionising radiation that cannot damage any organic matter. Now let’s take a look at who invented the microwave.
The Accidental Invention by Percy Spencer
The history of microwaves dates back to a man named Percy Spencer. A self-taught engineer who never completed grammar school. He worked on magnetrons and vacuum tubes that produced microwaves at the Raytheon Corp. During his time at this company, Percy Spencer not only devised a more efficient way of manufacturing magnetrons but also invented the first microwave oven.
In 1945, Percy Spencer was working on a magnetron when he discovered that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. He was puzzled by this occurrence, but he was also intrigued. So he tested other foods with the magnetron and the radiation that was created. He was amazed when grains like corn kernels turned into popcorn when exposed to low radiation.
Percy Spencer decided to build a metal box and introduce microwaves into it. Simply because these waves couldn’t pass through the metal box and escape, and through his endeavours, we learnt that microwaves could cook food faster when compared to the conventional oven.
So, in the year 1945, when Percy Spencer applied for a patent and the lifespan of the microwave commenced.
The First Commercial Microwave Oven
In 1947, the first commercial microwave oven was tested at a Boston restaurant. Compared to the slim and compact options we own today, it was a big machine. It was a 6-feet tall and heavy machine that needed a constant water supply since it was water-cooled.
Despite the large size, simple design, and high cost, the popularity of the first microwave ovens skyrocketed, and demand increased. These microwaves were exclusively used in restaurants, ocean liners, and railroad cars. They were used to store foods and reheat them when an order came knocking. These helped many restaurants cut down on waste and expenses.
However, some people realised that the first commercial microwave technology had many potentials that were not limited to the food industry alone; businesses used it for drying things like paper and ceramics since it cut down the drying time to half.
The First Domestic Microwave Oven
Costly is the term that best describes the first domestic microwave that was introduced in 1955. This first domestic model was created by a company known as Raytheon. Despite being too bulky, the first domestic microwave oven became a popular kitchen appliance in many American households.
However, Raytheon bought another company in the ’60s that built a microwave oven that could fit on a kitchen counter or workspace at an affordable rate. Years down the line, a small magnetron was developed, and then the first compact and practical microwave oven were introduced to the public eye in 1967. This increased the demand for home microwave ovens and started gaining popularity as they lifted household convenience to a new different level.
With time, this innovation led to the creation of the modern microwave, which is versatile, convenient, and exceptionally powerful.
How Does a Microwave Work?
Now that we have looked at the history and who invented the microwave, you probably wonder how they work. These quick and convenient kitchen appliances use a specific frequency of 2450MHz with a power range from 500-1000watts. This frequency ensures no waves escape while in use, ensuring that different foods are cooked evenly.
Microwaves are produced in a microwave oven by a device known as a magnetron. The magnetron transforms electricity from the power outlet into microwaves. The water molecules then absorb these microwaves in the food, which are then rotated by an electric field from the microwaves. This, in turn, creates vibrations that generate heat and allow foods to cook.
Interestingly, the radiation molecules can only pass through specific materials such as plastic, glass, and ceramic. However, you should ensure that the materials are also microwave-safe. So never place or use a metal or conductive object inside your microwave oven since it might damage it.
Are Microwaves Safe?
Microwave ovens are safe to use, from cooking to heating cooked foods. However, several precautions must be followed when it comes to food handling. Also, these precautions help reduce the risks of thermal burns and the potential exposure to microwaves. Let’s take a look at some of these safety precautions in detail.
Microwave ovens are designed to ensure that microwave radiation is contained within the appliance. These waves can only be present when the microwave oven is switched on and the door is shut. Leakage of the waves around and through the glass door is limited by the appliance’s design to a recommended low level.
Microwave leakage may still occur on dirty, damaged, or modified microwave ovens. Therefore, it is always important to maintain your microwave to avoid such risks.
Always make sure that you close the door properly when using a microwave oven. Check to see if the safety devices fitted on the door work properly. These safety devices always guarantee that no microwaves are generated while the door is open.
Furthermore, always ensure that the door seals are always clean and there are no damages to your microwave oven’s seals and outer casing. On the flip side, if your microwave oven has faulty parts or is damaged, ensure that it’s not used until a qualified service engineer has conducted a proper repair.
Please remember that your body can absorb microwave energy and produce heat in exposed tissues. Also, body organs with low or poor blood supply and temperature are prone to a high risk of heat damage.
Burn injuries may occur if you handle hot foods or drinks from a microwave oven inappropriately. But, it’s important to note that microwave heating or cooking food in a microwave presents some peculiarities.
The thermal response of specific food items with different heat rates or non-porous surfaces, such as hotdogs, egg whites, and yolks, may explode if heated unevenly. Note that an explosion may only occur if you cook eggs in a shell.
Furthermore, when it comes to boiling liquids such as water, never allow them to get superheated. Introducing foreign elements, such as a spoon or sugar, can trigger its boiling point. This can cause to overflow from the cup or mug, causing severe burns.
Nutritional Value and Food Safety
Microwave ovens heat different meals depending on several factors, such as the power rating of the oven, water content, density, and amount of food being heated. Also, remember that microwave heat might not pass evenly in large quantities of food, leading to uneven cooking. However, uneven cooking can be avoided by allowing the prepared meal to settle inside the microwave oven for a few minutes after cooking. This allows the heat to distribute evenly within it.
It’s noteworthy that foods cooked in microwave ovens have the same nutritional value as those cooked in a conventional oven. However, the main difference between microwave and oven cooking is the overall cooking time. Microwave ovens cook food quickly when compared to conventional ovens.
Furthermore, remember that microwave cooking or heating food does not make them radioactive. Also, the microwave’s energy doesn’t remain in the food or cavity when the microwave oven is switched off.
One of the Best Inventions for Kitchen Needs
That’s it on who invented the microwave. We hope this article has answered many of your questions about the microwave oven and how it has changed through the years, and they keep on evolving as technology improves. But old is gold, and the first microwaves are pioneers of one of the most owned kitchen appliances in American households, one of the most amazing inventions of the 1900s.
Can you imagine your kitchen without a microwave oven? Most people can’t as they are deemed valuable and regarded as a kitchen essential to each household, whether for heating or cooking food. If you don’t have a microwave oven yet, you better get a hold of one now! Amazingly, you can choose from a wide range of designs, colours, features, and prices to match your needs.