Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: damaging empty microwave?

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 03/12/2014
Hello! I hope you can help me out. Long story short, I just bought a new, 900-watt microwave and accidentally ran it for about 45-50 seconds with nothing in it. It smelled a little funny right afterward, but seems to be cooking food normally since. However, could I have damaged it? If so, how badly? It wasn't a very expensive microwave, but I'd hate to think I've permanently damaged or ruined it doing something so silly. Thank you!
- LG Olson (age 30)
San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

The problem with running an empty  microwave is that it doesn't have anything inside to absorb the microwave energy. So a lot of that energy tends to get absorbed in the magnetron tube that's also the microwave source. It will overheat if that goes on very long. It sounds (smells) like you did a little of that, but since the microwave is still working ok, I wouldn't worry about it. Obviously it's good to avoid doing that again.

Mike W.

(published on 03/12/2014)

Follow-up on this answer.