How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Site Map
At UVa:
Superheating in the Microwave Oven

I received the following story of someone who was burned by water superheated in a microwave oven. I hope you find it useful. -- Lou Bloomfield

The reader sent in the following note:

"I am a 44-year-old man who was injured by exploding water. Here is how it happened:

I was boiling about two cups of water for tea in my microwave in a clear Pyrex-type measuring cup, and when I didn't see it boiling, cranked up the microwave for another few minutes. I somewhat absent-mindedly did this SEVERAL TIMES, and when it never boiled, figured there must be something wrong with the oven. Thankfully, it crossed my mind that I should be cautious, and reached in for the cup with my face away from the door; because the water literally exploded out of the cup. It instantly covered from half of my hand to midway up my upper arm -- and I'm six and a half feet tall. Only a few drops of water were left in the cup.

I called the emergency room, I called the Optim Nurse Line, and I called a friend who I knew had an aloe vera plant. I ended up self-treating with fresh-squeezed aloe juice several times a day, followed with clean bandages, but it was very painful for quite a while. I ended up with just a little blistering, and a reddish tint that faded over a few months' time.

I'm sure that my experience was not "reported." In fact, I didn't talk about it much, because it was so weird and incredible. Some people looked at me like they weren't sure they believed me, so I shut up. I am very glad I found some validation for my experience, so I can show it to them. It could be that many cases of this occur but go officially unreported.

I'm also glad that I ran across your scientific explanation, because it totally baffled me and the few I asked about it.

If it is of any interest to you or anyone else, I will put you in contact with people who saw my burns and helped me treat them, and I will gladly give you my address, etc."


Last Updated (Date and Time)
Copyright 1997-2004 © Louis A. Bloomfield, All Rights Reserved
Copyediting by Patricia Clay