Reference Terms
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Microwave

Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with wavelengths longer than those of terahertz (THz) wavelengths, but relatively short for radio waves.

Microwaves have wavelengths approximately in the range of 30 cm (frequency = 1 GHz) to 1 mm (300 GHz).

However, the boundaries between far infrared light, terahertz radiation, microwaves, and ultra-high-frequency radio waves are fairly arbitrary and are used variously between different fields of study.

A microwave oven works by passing microwave radiation, usually at a frequency of 2450 MHz (a wavelength of 12.24 cm), through the food.

Water, fat, and sugar molecules in the food absorb energy from the microwave beam in a process called dielectric heating.

Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a positive charge at one end and a negative charge at the other, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field induced by the microwave beam.

This molecular movement creates heat as the rotating molecules hit other molecules and put them into motion.

Microwave heating is most efficient on liquid water, and much less so on fats and sugars (which have less molecular dipole moment), and frozen water (where the molecules are not free to rotate).

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Microwave", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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July 28, 2015

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