A brief introduction to microwaves and its applications

Most of us have heard the word “microwave”. The microwave ovens made the word more popular. But do we really know what this microwave is?

Have you heard “x-ray”s? Have you taken one in your life? Most probably you have. So did I. But I was so concerned about it because of the side effects it had if we have been over exposed to the x-rays. Because I knew how harmful it was. But I never had such attitude towards microwaves because you cook your food with it. How can it be harmful? I am sure many thought so. But what if I say that the microwaves and x-rays fall into the same category? Yes They Do.

They are both electromagnetic waves with different wave lengths where x-rays have wave lengths from 1×10-11m to 1×10-8m and microwave has the wavelengths from 1m to 1mm.

History of Microwaves

James Clerk Maxwell was an Scottish scientist who has predicted that coupled electric field and magnetic field could travel the space as an electromagnetic wave.

Microwaves were first generated in 1890s. It was generated for the earliest radio experiments. At first there was no microwaves. They tested about the radio waves. After series of test they confirmed that the light and radio waves were both electromagnetic waves.

Uses of Microwaves

Somehow microwaves were not used for practical activities until 1940s. After the 2nd world war the use of microwaves became rapid. Because of the high frequency the microwaves had a large capacity of carrying information. Such as single beam of microwave could carry thousands of phone calls. Later in 1950s microwave transmitting networks were built in Europe and US to transmit telephone calls and television programs between two continents. Also the TV broadcasting companies was able to do broadcasting out side their studio.

In 1960s the first communication satellite was launched and the networks could reach anywhere in the world. RADAR technology was developed for military purposes during the 2nd world war but today it has been used in inti-aircraft defense, ballistic missile detection and air traffic control and maritime navigation.


Radar is a detection system used to identify objects in a air space of a country. It can be used to determine the range, angle and velocity of the object. Radar is an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging. A radar system has two antennas. One to transmit and one to receive. Most of the time a single antenna does the both work.

By Bukvoed – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Development of radar was done in secret due to the 2nd world war for military purposes. The technological advances made the use of microwaves practical.

Microwave oven

The shortwaves has the ability to heat materials. This ability was tested in 1930s to cook food but it was only experimental. Later in 1945 Percy Spencer an engineer working on RADAR at the time realized that the microwave radiation had melted a candy bar in his pocket. He carried further tests to use microwave for cooking and finally invented the microwave oven.

By Daniel Christensen at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, CAMERA

Is Microwave Oven Harmful?

Microwave is a radiation. So it can harm you but microwave ovens do not change your food’s nutrition as the microwave radiation is transferred into heat. The heat is the component that used on your food not the microwaves. There are few ways that your food may lose nutrition. Like how long the food is cooked and at what temperature it is cooked.

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