The global Microwave Oven Market Size was valued at $8,547.20 millions in 2020 and estimated to reach over $15 billion by 2031. This is a 4.6% annual growth rate. The microwave oven uses thermal energy to heat the food molecules. This process is also called dialectic heating. Although microwave radiations from microwave ovens have a shorter wavelength, they contain a lot of energy which allows for faster cooking.

Microwaves are almost magical. You pop some leftovers in it, press some buttons, and in a matter of seconds, your food is warm and ready to eat. The person who invented this indispensable kitchen appliance was Percy Spencer. What is more, he did it accidentally!

Percy Spencer was an American engineer who had learned by himself.

Microwave History

The first heating materials using high-frequency electromagnetic waves was proposed in 1934. This idea was based on research by Bell Labs which filed for patent in 1937. Spencer noticed that a candy bar he had in his pocket had melted and he realized that microwaves could be used for cooking food. He placed popcorn kernels next to the magnetron to test his hypothesis. They began to pop, as he expected. Then he made a hole in the kettle’s side and placed an egg inside. He then directed microwaves through that hole. The egg exploded again and splattered the face of his skeptical colleague, who was looking into the kettle at the wrong moment.

Spencer had to solve the problem of radar tubes cooking foods too quickly. He had to adjust the magnetron tubes so that they produce less energy and heat food slower to control the cooking process. This process of invention was explained by Spencer in his patent issued USA102495429.

After conducting these experiments, Spencer quickly realized that a rectangular box of metal would be a good resonant space for cooking. Raytheon filed a patent on a microwave cooking method in October 1945. The Radarange was launched in 1946 to the market.

After refining the technology to make it more appealing to consumers. Raytheon acquired Amana in 1965. Raytheon also made use of Amana’s expertise in kitchen products and trademark marks. Amana launched the first countertop domestic oven in 1935, which cooked hamburgers in just 35 seconds. It cost $3100 today.

As this was pre-AIA, the patent lifetime was 17 years from the date issued, and the patent expired in 1969.

Microwave Inventors

In October 8, 1945, Raytheon, Spencer’s employer, and his newfound skills in cooking food quickly, led them to patent the invention they called the RadaRange. Raytheon launched RadaRange two years later as the first commercial microwave oven. It cost $52,628 (in 2015 dollars), and weighed in at 750 pounds. The RadaRange stood just shy six feet tall.

Spencer’s Raytheon’s microwave oven

The Raytheon’s microwave oven would take twenty minutes before you could cook any food. But they were ten-times more powerful than the ones you can buy now, so a potato could be cooked in thirty seconds.”

The high price of RadaRange and public fear of this new technology led to the RadaRange’s failure to explode immediately. The Raytheon’s microwave oven was eventually branded the commercial failure. This was because, like many others, they saw cool technology, but didn’t know the market.

microwave oven development

These days, microwave ovens are inexpensive and present in many kitchens. Whether you want to heat water to make coffee, reheat leftovers, or pop a bag of popcorn, the microwave has got you covered. It can perform all these tasks much faster as compared to other appliances.

The refrigerator-sized microwave oven was eventually reduced to a smaller countertop size.

According to the University of Southern California sales of the microwave oven “surpassed those of natural gas ranges” in 1975.

At that time, Spencer’s invention was called the “microwave oven” and its adoption soared around the globe. In 1986, one in four American households owned a microwave. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 90% of American households had the appliance by 1997.

Inventions that have resulted from Percy Spencer’s Invention

Percy Spencer’s research and invention of microwave technology are still being used today as a starting point for research in radar and magnetron technology. NASA states that different wavelengths of microwaves can penetrate snow, rain and clouds. Another radar technology uses microwaves to measure sea level to within a few centimeters.

Police officers are known to use radar guns to track a vehicle’s speed. These continuously transmit microwaves to measure waves’ reflections and determine how fast you’re driving.

All of this wouldn’t be possible if Spencer didn’t discover the melting candy bar in his pocket years ago.