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Monday, 8 November 2010

Microwaving CDs...don't try this at home!

I have added procrastination to the list of skills I've mastered and, in a bid to impart this wisdom to my faithful readers, I am going to share with you what I've been doing this cold and drizzly Monday evening.

Today's post is about microwaving CDs but please, please, please do not try this at home (or do, but absolutely, definitely DO NOT hold me responsible. Not even a little bit.  Nada)

When you put a CD in the microwave for a few seconds (this is not a recipe...but no more than three seconds) the aluminium concentric circles are vaporised and you are left with this nifty little piece of art (right).

If you were to put a CD in the microwave, you would make sure that it was stood up against a glass and that you stopped the microwave when the CD started smoking.  Of course you know those fumes are very dangerous and shouldn't be inhaled.  But you won't try this at home so it doesn't matter.

The few seconds of arcs being created around the CD makes for a miniature electrical storm sparking away in your microwave (or your neighbours' if your flatmates are odd and don't own one).

You can watch this video at Powerlabs showing you what it looks like since you aren't going to do this at home.

When the little lightning party ends, one must be careful not to touch the CD right away (not You, no one's accusing You).  The CD can still be conducting currents for a few seconds after microwaves are present.

'How the heck does it work?', you may be wondering. Well, the thin layer of aliminium is vaporised by the microwaves and this vapour supports the flow of electricity.  With me so far?  Okay, well arcs form (like those from clouds to the ground - lightning), which continue to vaporise a trail along the circular tracks where data is stored.  This happens until the space between the tracks becomes too great to support an arc.  

...and what you are left with is seen below.  This is not one I did, my attempt (in safe laboratory conditions with all safety precautions taken) was pretty special but I couldn't get a decent photograph with my camera!

 Arianna Gianola, Princeton University gave it a good shot

So, the moral of the story is; if you're bored and have CDs from the 80s kicking around the house don't put them in the microwave*.  

*Unless you have a very well ventilated room, only put it in for 3 seconds, don't mind the prospect of your microwave exploding, wait very patiently once it's finished and take amazing pictures to share with me afterwards.  Then and ONLY THEN may you try this at home

1 comment:

  1. love it! I remember us doing this years ago i'm sure kim!