27 March 2017

Radar and Microwave Ovens

RADAR was coined in 1940 by the United States Navy as an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging (or RAdio Direction And Ranging). The term radar has since been used in English and other languages as a common noun, losing all capitalization.

Radar is a technology based on the principle that radio waves can bounce off the surfaces of large objects. A radio wave beam pointed in one direction will bounce back at the source if they encounter an obstruction in their path. For radar detection, measuring the bounced-back radio waves can indicate distant objects or objects hidden from view by clouds or fog can be detected. Radar was used to detect planes and ships, and later weather patterns since rainstorms also caused interference that could be measured.

But what does that have to do with microwave ovens? Amana, a subsidiary of Raytheon corporation, called their first model the “Radarange” (radar + range, as in stove). Do microwave ovens use radar?

During World War II, the American military needed more magnetrons for radar installations, and Raytheon was given the assignment. By redesigning the magnetron so that components could be punched out from sheet metal, mass production of magnetrons was increased dramatically.

When an engineer was working with a live magnetron, he noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had started to melt. He thought that the radio waves from the magnetron caused the heating. After further testing, including popping corn, Raytheon filed for a patent for using radar technology for cooking. An oven using radar technology was made.

Though microwaves has been used for commercial food preparation since the 1950s, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Amana ovens sold for home use in 1967.

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