It's an Sn2 (nucleophilic bimolecular substitution) reaction, Williamson ether synthesis, that requires heat and pressure to get the desirable rate.
The microwave looks (and sounds) not much different to a domestic microwave. I've heard each of the tube inside costs about $100. They are designed to withstand very high pressure because the reaction takes place in closed system and is heated up to 140 degree Celsius.
The lab manual says using microwave to speed up reaction is more environmental because less electricity than traditional hot plate or sand bath and no water is needed to cool down the product.
P. S. I just realize I actually met and even talked to Jeffrey Vinokur (a.k.a. the Dancing Scientist) multiple times, since I went to Rhythms Per Second's hip-hop lessons in the first year. Now I just connected those two, oh, that Jeff is actually Jeffery Vinokur. He'll be teaching a popping lesson tomorrow and if I go I could meet him again ... but I'll probably stay home and do homework for my time has been tight recently.