How does it work? - Microwave oven

How does it work? - Microwave oven

This animation demonstrates how microwave ovens work.



microwave oven, microwave, household appliance, kitchen appliance, electromagnetic, magnetron, heating, water molecule, heat flow, wave, technology, physics

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  • - It is an electromagnetic wave with a wavelength between 1 mm (0.03937 in) and 1 m (39.37 in). In microwave ovens the wavelength is approximately 12 cm (4.724 in).


Microwaves are electromagnetic waves, just like light, but their wavelength is larger: it varies between 1 mm (0.03937 in) and 1 m (39.37 in). In microwave ovens the wavelength is approximately 12 cm (4.724 in).

Water molecules are electric dipoles: hydrogen atoms are partially positively charged, while oxygen atoms are partially negative. Therefore microwaves, that is, the periodically changing electromagnetic field, causes water molecules to vibrate. The increase of kinetic energy causes an increase of temperature, therefore materials containing water that are placed in the microwave oven become hot.

The magnetron generates microwaves using electric current, which are directed into the cooking cavity by a waveguide. There they are scattered by the blades of a fan. Reflected by the inner metal walls of the cooking cavity, the waves enter food and make it hot.

The door to the oven is fitted with a protective mesh, which prevents microwaves from escaping from the cooking cavity. Without this protective layer our tissues would also heat up while standing near the oven, which could lead to burns.

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One of the most important components of the microwave oven is the magnetron, which produces the microwaves.

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