Look up in the Urban Dictio
About five days ago my year old son decided to have a cup of instant coffee. He took a cup of water and put it in the microwave to heat it up something that he had done numerous times before. I am not Purified water a source of instant how long he set the timer for but he told me he wanted to bring the water to a boil.
When the timer shut the oven off, he removed the cup from the oven. The cup remained intact until he threw it out of his hand but all the water had flew out into his face due to the buildup of energy. His whole face is blistered and he has 1st and 2nd degree burns to his face which may leave scarring.
He also may have lost partial sight in his left eye. While at the hospital, the doctor who was attending to him stated that this a fairly common occurrence and water alone should never be heated in a microwave oven.
If water is heated in this manner, something should be placed in the cup to diffuse the energy such as a wooden stir stick, tea bag, etc. It is however a much safer choice to boil the water in a tea kettle. Please pass this information on to friends and family. This type of phenomenon occurs if water is heated in a clean cup.
If foreign materials such as instant coffee or sugar are added before heating, the risk is greatly reduced. If superheating has occurred, a slight disturbance or movement such as picking up the cup, or pouring in a spoon full of instant coffee, may result in a violent eruption with the boiling water exploding out of the cup.
Follow the precautions and recommendations found in the microwave oven instruction manuals, specifically the heating time. Do not use excessive amounts of time when heating water or liquids in the microwave oven.
Determine the best time setting to heat the water just to the desired temperature and use that time setting regularly. In an article for New Scientist, Richard Barton wrote: A portion of the water in the cup is becoming superheated — the liquid temperature is actually slightly above the boiling point, where it would normally form a gas.
In this case, the boiling is hindered by a lack of nucleation sites needed to form the bubbles. I imagine that by keeping the cup still and microwaving for a long time, one could blow the entire contents of the cup into the interior of the microwave as soon as you introduced any nucleation sites.
It is this sometimes explosive rate of steam production that means you should take great care when using a microwave oven. From the How Everything Works web site: Glass containers are clearly the most likely to superheat water because their surfaces are essentially perfect.
Glasses have the characteristics of frozen liquids and a glass surface is as smooth as… well, glass. When you overheat water in a clean glass measuring cup, your chances of superheating it at least mildly are surprisingly high.
The spontaneous bubbling that occurs when you add sugar, coffee powder, or a teabag to microwave-heated water is the result of such mild superheating. Fortunately, severe superheating is much less common because defects, dirt, or other impurities usually help the water boil before it becomes truly dangerous.
From the Unwise Microwave Oven Experiments article: Things are different in a microwave oven. The water gets hot but the container usually does not. If some unwitting victim should pour a soluble powder into the superheated water, this will carry thousands of tiny air bubbles into the water.
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