What Is an Infrared Burner?

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An infrared burner is a heating surface that uses invisible rays of light to produce heat energy. This technology creates even heating over the entire surface, making it a popular choice for grills and other cooking applications. It is also used in manufacturing facilities and industrial plants, and can even be used to heat the home.

Function

  • Infrared light waves fall just below visible light on the spectrum of light waves. This means that these waves are too long for us to see, though they do produce heat. When infrared light strikes a surface, it excites the molecules within the surface. These molecules begin to vibrate, which creates heat energy. The more infrared light applied to an object, the greater the level of heat energy that can be produced.

Features

  • An infrared burner is typically constructed from stainless steel, glass or ceramic. These burners may have a mesh "grill" surface or a smooth finish. They are found on objects ranging from large industrial radiators to small home heaters. Many grills and stoves also contain infrared burners, particularly in commercial restaurant kitchens.

    An infrared burner requires a fuel source to produce infrared light waves, and may be powered by electricity, propane or natural gas. These burners are categorized based on the level of heat they can produce, measured in BTU's per hour. When choosing infrared burners, match the BTU rating to your needs before making a selection.

Uses

  • Infrared burners are found in many industrial facilities, where they are used to dry coating materials such as paint, enamel, ink and glaze. These burners can be used to dry fabric or plastics as part of the manufacturing process. Many firms use infrared burners to heat and soften metal plastic or laminate so it can be cut, bent or shaped easily. Both small- and large-scale heating systems may use infrared technology, and both stoves and grills rely on infrared for fast, high-temperature cooking.

Benefits

  • One of the primary advantages to an infrared burner is its ability to reach very high temperatures in a short amount of time. While other heat sources take time to warm up, infrared units reach maximum heat levels almost instantly. They also spread heat across the entire surface, resulting in even cooking, drying or heating. Very little heat energy is wasted with an infrared unit, leading to high levels of efficiency. The heat produced by infrared light is also moist in comparison to other heat sources. It won't dry out the skin, and it allows other items to dry or cure while still maintaining some moisture.

Drawbacks

  • Compared with other heat sources, infrared burners tend to be relatively expensive, particularly in industrial settings. While they are known for producing high heat levels, they are not typically capable of producing low to moderate temperatures. The high heat produced by infrared burners may be too hot for many applications, including some cooking or grilling tasks. Because of this high heat, infrared burners are better at heating the outside of an object, and may not penetrate inner layers. For example, infrared grills can be used to char a steak while leaving the inside raw. They can dry paint or glaze on a clay bowl, but may not be able to dry out the bowl itself.

References

  • Photo Credit Close-up image of an electric range heating element image by Alexey Stiop from Fotolia.com
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