Friday, February 26, 2016

Taking guess work out of nuking? A new approach!

Though microwave heating technology was patented in 1946, the popular counter top oven using this technology became a reality only in 1967. By 1976 this device became common and it became a necessity by 1980 for most American families. To day Microwave heating has become a standard practice in most kitchens in developed countries, becoming the twin partner of another equally convenient and useful food handling tool viz refrigerator for getting a food ready for eating in a jiffy. While refrigerator with freezer facilities can store prepared foods for long time, microwave oven can make it available for consumption in a matter few minutes. Microwave technology is no more confined to homes in Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and affluent East Asian countries as its versatility is spreading far and wide. Even in developing countries with sizeable middle class population, affordable microwave ovens are becoming a standard fixture in modern kitchens. Look at India where more than 8 lakh units of microwave ovens are marketed annually though the 4 major metros in the count for 70% of this market. Of course India market is relatively insignificant if global penetration is taken into consideration with the world market expected to grow to a staggering 80 million ovens by 2020! One of the major constraints in using microwave heating is the non-uniform heat generation within the mass of the food heated and the difficulty most consumers have in determining the correct end point of the heating process. Recent report indicating development of a device that can be included in the design of a microwave oven that can provide accurate picture about the completion of heating process will be a great boon to the consumer. Here is a take on this exciting new development. 

"For all the time they save us in food preparation, burnt tongues and frozen centers are an all too common occurrence when dealing with microwaves. But former NASA engineer-turned-inventor Mark Rober reckons nuking our food shouldn't involve so much guesswork. His take on the everyday kitchen appliance offers  a thermal vision display of your food as it cooks,so you know exactly when it's time to chow down. Though it is only a prototype, in using cheap, widely available technologies Rober says there's no reason the Heat Map Microwave can't start saving your bacon right away. An infrared lens is planted on the ceiling of the microwave, streaming a thermal, birds eye view of your dish to a display where you would normally find the window. As your food moves from cold to hot, it goes from blue, to red and to white hot when it's time to pull it out. Alternatively the microwave could be programmed to switch off automatically when it reaches this point. And the really neat thing here is that the display could quite easily be streamed to a mobile device over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, meaning you could monitor it remotely and wouldn't need to stand salivating around the microwave, peering through the window for any sign that your food is ready to go. Rober does plan on commercializing his modern take on the microwave. But rather than turning to crowdfunding sites to raise money, he's asking people to pledge support by signing a petition, which has gathered more than 20,000 signatures at the time of writing. Rober hopes to build enough momentum through the petition to show investors his product is worth mass-producing, while also enabling him to keep his supporters in the loop on his progress and its design."

Though convenient-wise microwave heating or more popularly referred to as "nuking" in the US, is the turning point in reducing kitchen drudgery, a country like India is not able to make it a common man's tool because of the power crisis in the country where quality and quantity of electricity available, especially in rural and many semi urban areas are highly uncertain and unpredictable because of "power of the power suppliers" to resort to unscheduled and unannounced cuts several times a day! Added to these woes most Indian traditional food preparations do not lend themselves to microwave heating due to lack of information about the optimal heating time and the power settings to be programmed. It is here that the new innovation will help the consumer in the country to be more confident about the usefulness of this gadget. Another handicap that is faced by the Indian consumer is the uncertainty regarding the wares regarding their suitability for microwave cooking. Unlike in the US or the UK, most inert wares like plastics, glass or china, do not display any signs on their wares whether they can be used for nuking. Still there is no stopping of these ovens gaining popularity in the coming years due to their versatility. The existing manufacturers in the country must try to absorb the new "visual" window technology and offer the new ovens sooner than later.    


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