Question:What is the actual difference between microwaves and infrared radiation (apart from their names)?
Microwaves and infrared radiation are both types of electromagnetic radiation.
They share many properties in common, but there must also be differences otherwise they would behave in exactly the same way.
The main difference is that every particle of microwave radiation has less energy in it than any particle of infrared radiation.
They also have different frequencies and wavelengths.
The energy of each particle of electromagnetic radiation determines what value the frequency will be and the wavelength is related to the frequency.
Recall that a particle of Electromagnetic radiation is called a photon.
The way that any kind of electromagnetic radiation behaves when it hits some kind or material surface, depends on the energy of its particle (and the wavelength and the frequency because they are all related).
So microwave radiation behaves differently to infrared radiation because the microwave photons have a different frequency, energy and wavelength than infrared photons do.