Sparking vegetables in microwave

Ok - here's a strange one. My wife diced up about a quarter of a green peper this morning and put it in our 10-year-old Hotpoint vented counter-saver microwave (Model RVM125K003) to soften them before adding them to an omlette. I heard her scream from the kitchen and ran in to see the green peppers jumping and sparking, with flames shooting out of the dices. There were no sparks in the microwave itself - they were only coming from the vegetables.
At first I thought there must be some metal in the bowl. I took the bowl out, diced up another green pepper, put it in a different bowl, popped it back in - same thing. So I started doing a serious of experiments. I diced up a carrot, put it in a different bowl again - and the same thing happened. Flames and sparks shooting from the carrots, but nowhere else in the microwave. After letting it go only 4 or 5 seconds, when I took it out, the carrots were singed black in spots. On to another vegetable - this time a diced stalk of celery. Same result. Sparks and flames from the vegetable. I moved on to a slice of bread - this time no sparks or flames, but within seconds steam started coming from the bread. At first I thought it was smoke, but it didn't smell like smoke, so I think it was steam. Then I put in just a plain bowl of water and it started steaming pretty fast too. Some leftover soup from the fridge didn't do anything.
A quick search on the internet revealed that some vegetables can contain trace amounts of minerals which can cause sparks and flames, and they finger carrots and green peppers (see http://website.lineone.net/~stolarczyk/trivia2.html and page down to the ICY SPARKS FROM YOUR CARROTS section and also see http://www.public.coe.edu/departments/Chemistry/research.html and page down to the FOOD CHEMISTRY section).
Anyways, in 10 years of cooking in this microwave, it has never happened before. I'm wondering if this is a sign my microwave is about to die. So my questions to the group are :
1) Anyone else experience this ? What was your determination/solution ? 2) Is my microwave about to die ? 3) Should I keep using it, or is my microwave maybe focusing it's waves to a dangerous point
Thanks to all for reading this.
Shawn
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It's possible there were small metallic particles in the peppers, from the soil, harvesting equipment, processing machinery, or whatever. I had that happen once or twice, but it's rare.
This also happens occasionally with paper towels that use recycled paper. Little metal particles end up in the paper and spark like you mentioned. Of course, paper is flammable, and this has been known to start fires in microwaves. Though, in all honesty, I have never seen this happen myself.

I'm not familiar with your microwave, but if you do not have a turntable I would guess the system that distributes the microwaves has failed. This is typically a rotating metal reflector, under a cover on the top side of the microwave cavity that distributes the microwaves around the cavity. If it stops turning the microwaves all get beamed into a single spot in the microwave.
Try putting the water/food in a different location in the oven and see if you get the same results. I'm guessing it'll cook differently, in which case it's probably time to have the oven serviced. It's usually a fairly simple repair, but you'll need to weigh the cost of the repair against the cost of a new oven.
Anthony
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
With the price of Nukes these days I sure wouldn't want to chance a ten year old one. Especially one acting like yours
Dave

them
diced
happened.
the
vegetable.
put
Some
finger
ICY
down
a
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 05 Jan 2004 04:12:59 GMT, "David Babcock"

And if you decide to replace it, don't do what I did and just throw it out. [I've been kicking myself for 3 years and hope this one doesn't last as long]
A microwave deserves a glorious end. Preferably videotaped from a safe distance. Microwave some eggs. Try an aerosal can; [are there plastic ones?] a sealed jar of peanut butter; a light bulb; a lava lamp--- anything.
There is probably a Usenet group or web site dedicated to 'things you can do with your dying microwave', but I'm too sad about mine to look.
Please don't let your microwave just go to the dump. If you have no sense of adventure call the local High School or university. Their Science department should be able to find a use for it. [hmmm-- VT, eh? How far are you from Albany, NY? I could dispose of it for you. <g>]
Jim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Shawn P. Good wrote:

===quote==Dr. Dean and her students, as well as others, have observed that grapes, carrots, and many other fruits or vegetables, when cut and placed next to one another and heated in a microwave oven, will spark with considerable size and duration. There is no ready explanation for this phenomenon in the physics or chemical literature. There may be a correlation among the dielectric constant, sample size and shape, moisture content for different foods, and the amount of sparking that takes place in the microwave field. In addition, the phenomenon can be modeled using salt solutions to mimic those present in a typical fruit or vegetable cell. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a cut edge of the fruit or vegetable must be present, touching that of another cut edge, for the phenomenon to occur. This phenomenon seems similar to that of the 'edge effect' where electrons congregate at the sharp edges and point of a metal in an electric field and can discharge via a spark to another edge or point nearby. ===end quote== http://www.public.coe.edu/departments/Chemistry/research.html
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.