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As we know that induction cooker works on the principal of induction of current in a conducting plate. So I just wanted to know what will happen if we place salt water in a plastic container on the induction cooker will it get hot as it is also a conductor or nothing will happen?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The induction cooker works by passing a rapidly changing magnetic field through the thing to be heated.

That rapidly changing magnetic field creates an EMF (Electro Motive Force) field. (Faraday's law). This is like a voltage. Current will flow, proportional to the conductivity. No conductivity, no current. Low conductivity, low current. High conductivity, high current. Heat will be produced according to I^2 R.

So there will be a current in the salt water, and it will be heated. But not very much. Its conductivity is much less than copper or iron, so it will not have a very large current or amount of heating.

As for Iron or other magnetic materials, they might be part of the design, required to concentrate the magnetic field, but in general, induction heating is from currents induced in a conductor.

Many weeks later: Those darn induction cookers are advertising everywhere. Sure enough, their writeup says you need some magnetic properties to the cookware. Their explanation as to why, something like the first line in JJ Fleck's answer, is garbled and not exactly correct. The addendum of Fleck's answer has it spot on, and with references too.

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Being a conductor is not enough, you also have to have some magnetic properties in order to induce current in some material. That's why not all pan "work" on an induction cooker.


Bobby Bennett's answer show me that I have been a bit too concise in my previous answer. Here is a more complete one:

  • As stated by Bobby Bennet, magnetic field can induce current in any material even slightly conductive due to the electromotive force given by the Lenz-Faraday law: $e=-\frac{d\Phi}{dt}$ where $\Phi$ is the magnetic flux through the system.
  • The transmitted power will be proportional to $e^2/\rho$ (due to Joule's law) where $\rho$ is the resistivity of the medium so that it's easier to heat good conductors which have low resistivity.
  • the electromotive force $e$ is higher when
    1. the magnetic field is varying rapidly: its frequency of variation has to be high (20 to 50kHz usually)
    2. the magnetic field in the medium is strong, which is where ferromagnetism enters in consideration. The magnetic field "felt" inside a medium is proportional to the exterior magnetic field with a factor given by the relative magnetic permeability of the medium $\mu_r=1+\chi$ where $\chi$ is the magnetic susceptibility. Susceptibily of iron is about $200$ when the one from aluminum is around $2.10^{-5}$, which explains why you have to have a much more special set up in this video: the current used to produce the magnetic field have to be 200 higher than the one that would have been needed to transmit the same power to iron.

In conclusion, you can for sure induce current in your salted water and increased it when increasing it's conductivity with ions but without the "doping" due to ferromagnetic properties, you would not be able to heat it with a usual "kitchen" induction system.

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To add to this answer, you need a feromagnetic material, such as cast iron, or some kinds of steel. – gns-ank Mar 23 '13 at 18:44
Nope. See this video, where aluminum (not ferromagnetic) is melted by induction. – iblue Mar 23 '13 at 22:29
Well, the question was about "usual" induction cooker and not "home made, very high current so very high magnetic field" induction system. Everything can happen in physics if you enter the right order of magnitude. – JJ Fleck Mar 24 '13 at 6:54
so that means no current will be induced in the salt water – Dimensionless Mar 24 '13 at 12:36

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