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Technical Perspective: Cooking Up a Solution to Microwave Heat Distribution

door open on empty microwave oven

Credit: Getty Images

What is common between microwaved popcorn and WiFi networks? They both require microwave signals with frequencies around 2.45GHz. Indeed, research in the wireless networking community has demonstrated that microwave ovens, when turned on, can and do interfere with nearby WiFi networks and degrade their throughput. Thankfully, over the past two decades, the shielding of microwave ovens has improved, and WiFi networks have become smarter in combatting interference. So, it seemed the competition for airspace between microwave ovens and WiFi is from a bygone era until recently, when microwave ovens made a comeback to the wireless and mobile networking community.

Surprisingly, this time around, microwave ovens did not come back to interfere with WiFi networks. Rather, researchers figured out a way to program microwave ovens to heat food more evenly. We have all faced situations when a microwaved meal turned out unevenly heated, under-cooked, or overcooked. Microwave oven designers try to combat this by using turntables and placing reflectors inside the oven to distribute the microwave energy when heating food more evenly. However, these approaches are inherently limited when it comes to meals that combine different types of food (vegetables, rice, meat), each of which requires different amounts of time to warm up without burning or overcooking.


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