Golden Delicious? Try Just Plain Brown

Every day, I eat an apple for lunch. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! No doubt, fruit is good for you. But, as my apple has to be cut up due to the unfortunate metal device called braces, it often browns a little bit if I don’t eat it before  I get home. So why does it do that?

One site writes, “When an apple is cut (or bruised), oxygen is introduced into the injured plant tissue. When oxygen is present in cells, polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzymes in the chloroplasts rapidly oxidize phenolic compounds naturally present in the apple tissues to o-quinones, colorless precursors to brown-colored secondary products. O-quinones then produce the well documented brown color by reacting to form compounds with amino acids or proteins, or they self-assemble to make polymers.” Wait, what? You know how your blood isn’t always red? How when it has no oxygen it’s blue? Well, like blood, which automatically turns red when it is exposed to oxygen, plant tissues, yes, plants are living things, are also exposed to oxygen. Once this happens, PPO, or, more generally (And very unscientifically) stuff in the chloroplasts, combines with oxygen the phenolic compounds already found in the apple with, as said before, “… o-quinones, colorless precursors to brown-colored secondary products.” This makes the brown color by reacting with more stuff, like proteins.

Okay, you say, now finally understanding my really over-complication of the already-complicated explanation. So why do some brown faster?

So, you know that stuff in the chloroplasts, the PPO? This varies within fruits and even types of apples. Other conditions, like growing conditions or maturity can also affect PPO. This, in turn, affects the browning time. One site writes, “One approach the food industry employs to prevent enzymatic browning is to select fruit varieties that are less susceptible to discoloration—either due to lower PPO activity or lower substrate concentration.”

So for all you at-home apple-eaters, all you have to do is coat your freshly sliced apple in sugar or syrup, which can reduce the amount of oxygen access, and slow down browning. So can pineapple or lemon, which are more acidic, which lowers the pH, which lowers the PPO. Another method includes, “Heating can also be used to inactivate PPO enzymes; apples can be blanched in boiling water for four to five minutes to nearly eliminate PPO activity. (Be warned that cooking will affect the texture of the product.)”

Not only does browning occur in apples and other fruits, but in tea and coffee as well. And I know multiple people that eat or drink these items mentioned. That’s why everyone needs to know about the process of browning, and that, to prevent browning, all you need is more sugar! (because I’m sure you all need more of that! 🙂 )

Happy New year everyone!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!


Pretty Perfume and the Science of Smells

While I don’t use perfume on a daily basis, there is always that lure to test out perfumes in the stores. Most of the time they a) smell really gross or b) blend together after a while. Either way, it ends badly. But what is perfume, why do so many women wear it, and what is it made of?

Well, I can tell you without any website that there is definitely alcohol in it. I remember overhearing my friend Jane say once, “Why do you think perfume burns on a cut? It’s because of the alcohol!” But, besides that, there are chemicals called essential oils, or essence. One site states, “All of these can evaporate very quickly when left open, and are generally gotten from the leaves or flowers of plants. For example, limonene is an essential oil that comes from lemon leaves and gives the familiar ‘lemon’ smell.” These essential oils are really expensive though, which explains a lot. Nowadays most perfumes are made with a combination of three essential oils.The quickly fading smells are called top notes, which are the ones that are your first impression. Examples include bergamot and citronella. Middle notes are the major part of the perfume and last for a few hours, like rose, juniper or marjoram. Base notes are last, but, as we now know the chemical nature, these can be made in a factory. Mixing these three types of oils gives you a unique, long-lasting fragrance, and, depending which three you use, you can create similar scents as found in nature. One example from a site states, “… a mixture that has geraniol, citronellol, phenylethyl alcohol and linalool in a ratio of 30:25:25:5 will smell just like roses!”

So why do some scents smell good and others bad? This comes from our sense of smell. (Okay, seems obvious, but you never know…) We can figure out what s in something, like the smell of alcohol, and, based on what they do, that’s how hey smell. Ammonia is not good for humans, and therefore smells bad us. Food, however, as it is good for us, smells good. This is why mot flowers and fruits smell good too, as they represent food. This also happens to other animals too, like bees.


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Sticky Yet Slippery Styrofoam

You know packaging peanuts? You know how annoying they are to get off once they stick to you? Okay, so maybe smaller pieces of the stuff stick to you better, but the point is they are made of styrofoam. First off, this stuff is super annoying. Literally, it takes me five minutes to get a tiny piece of it off of my clothes. Despite it’s VAP (very annoying parts), styrofoam has its uses. Styrofoam cups, plates, packaging, etc. You’ve all seen it at least once in your life. Anyway, I figured I’d better enlighten you all on the properties, and other facts, of styrofoam.

First off,  styrofoam is made up of a long chain of hydrocarbons with a phenol group attached to every other carbon group. Phenol is also called a carbolic acid, and is an aromatic organic compound with the molecular formula C6H5OH. An aromatic organic compound is a hydrocarbon containing one or more benzene rings that are characteristic of the benzene series of compounds. Benzene is an organic chemical compound with the molecular formula C6H6. Its molecule is composed of 6 carbon atoms joined in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom. (Special shoutout to various dictionaries (both in book and website form) for helping me with that!) Chemically, it looks like this:  [CH2-CH(Ph)] n where Ph is a phenol and a C6H5 ring. It is a polymer, or a long chain with repeating atoms (called monomers) from petroleum. Styrofoam, as one source states, “…can also be called vinlybenzene, ethenyl benzene, cinnamene, phenylethylene” and “…is considered a thermoplastic, meaning that it softens with heat and hardens as it cools.” Styrofoam, due to the hydrocarbon known as Polystyrene, is flammable and has an orange flame that produces soot. Because of this Polystyrene, styrofoam contains something called CFC, which is known, at least according to this website, to “drastically deplete the ozone.” Styrofoam has a density of 1050kg/m3, and floats in the water. *Side note: it is slightly denser than water, but not dense enough to sink. For our purposes, it floats, although not completely. Kind of confusing, huh?* Moving on, most “…polystyrene is now manufactured with HCFC-22, which is why some manufactures will claim its “ozone friendly”. While it is less destructive than its chemical cousins CFC-11 and CFC-12, it still is considered a green house gas and harmful to the environment.”

Now that you’ve chewed through that. Two more important facts about polystyrene:

  • In 1986 out of a list of 20 chemicals whose production generated the most hazardous waste, polystyrene was #5. This is under the Right to Know act of 1986.
  •  Polystyrene recycling programs are heavily subsidized by polystyrene manufactures to improve the environmental image of their products.


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Loving the Lava Lamps!

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved lava lamps. Just the fact that giant blobs of some shade of hot pink or cool blue floating in a psychedelic way makes it cool. My English teacher has an orange one, and, when it’s warming up sometimes, it looks like a brain! Anyway, I’ve missed class today, and his lava lamp hasn’t been on in forever (I have him first period). I do enjoy the lava lamp, even if I don’t enjoy that class (he kind of ruins it for me). I figured,you, like me, would want to know the chemistry behind lava lamps. (And if you don’t, go read something else!)

Lava lamps contain  two liquids that are insoluble to each other, but they still have similar densities, also called immiscible compounds. Despite their similarities, one is still denser than the other, pushing the lighter of the two densities upwards. That’s pretty much all there is to it. However, they aren’t just for fun. Lava lamps can serve for heat, as the light bulb within provides heat, as any energy does, which gets absorbed by the denser solutions. This makes it expand and rise, which brings it to the top, where it cools and sinks. This repeats until the lamp is turned of. That’s why, when you first turn it on, it takes a while to move, as the heat source has disappeared. this is also the reason why the substance is at the bottom. One website states, “This entire reaction is very slow because the change in density of the solution is very fractional and as such both liquids have very similar densities.”

This is important as light can be absorbed by certain solutions, which can cause a chemical reaction. In this case, it causes blobs to rise up and down for entertainment during English class.

(BTW, I don’t hate English. In fact, I usually love English. This particular teacher is not very good, at least in my opinion, and I therefore do not enjoy his class very much. The books we read are good, though! Reading the Scarlet Letter right now!)

Links: .

So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Salty Stuff: How Salt Melts Ice (Even when it is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, cold outside)

ice cubes

I don’t know about you guys, but it is c-c-c-cold up here in New Jersey! We just had some snow these past couple of days, and, although it looks pretty, it is cold and icy! Everything freezes overnight, so we use a lot of ice to try and keep our ramp from being slippery (ramp to the front of our house- not a skateboard ramp 🙂 ). Since my mom has trouble walking, it is even more important for my family to make sure there isn’t a chance to slip. But, with all this snow, I couldn’t help but wonder: why does salt melt ice, even when it is still freezing outside?

Salt lowers the freezing or melting point of water, so, either way, salt creates a lower melting point! This is common knowledge, but this article restated it so clearly, “Ice forms when the­ temperature of water reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). When you add salt, that temperature drops: A 10-percent salt solution freezes at 20 F (-6 C), and a 20-percent solution freezes at 2 F (-16 C).”  This means the salt has to dissolve into the water before it can melt it.

This is so fascinating to you guys, that I just know you’ve tried to watch this happen! If you have actually tried to watch ice melting via salt, the first part that dissolves is the area immediately around the grain of salt. The melting part then spreads, and it is a chain reaction until it is all melted. However, if the temperature is already below 15 degrees F, then the salt won’t do anything, as it can’t melt the ice if there isn’t any water. After all, the solid salt can’t go into the solid ice, right?

Because I know just how hot it is out, you’ll want to understand how to make ice cream! If you want the mixture to freeze, it has to be lower than 32 degrees F. That’s because there is often salt in these mixtures. The salt mixed with ice creates a brine which is lower than 32 degrees F. When the melting point is lowered, the brine is so cold that it freezes the ice cream! So, instead of running over to Dunkin’ Donuts to get that piping hot Iced Hot Chocolate, curl up with a bowl of your favorite, warming ice cream! Enjoy!


(BTW, my mom is fine, but she had her ankles reconstructed a long time ago. One ankle worked, the other didn’t. So now, it hurts to walk because of that one ankle.)

So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Spritzing Seltzer

bubbles (Picture from the sweet-always thinking about chemistry, even when I’m having fun! 🙂 )

I went to a sweet over the weekend and they had sparkling cider, spite, and coke among other drinks. These three all have bubbles! As I have previously done a blog post about bubbles (see post here: ) I figured I’d do a different one! So here we go!

In regard to soda, it’s usually made of carbonated water and, the best thing in the world for you, high-fructose corn syrup! Carbonated water has carbon gas in it. This causes bubbles in the water. Its chemical composition is H2CO3, which shows that both water and carbon dioxide are present.  Together, it creates carbonic acid, an ingredient in soda that makes it bubbly. High fructose corn syrup is made of, you guessed it,  sugar! Fructose is just sugar from fruit, and the corn syrup part is, wow, made of corn! The only reason it’s in syrup form is because it’s easier to put into the soda. High fructose corn syrup usually gets the sugar from beets, and are crushed into liquid form. Natural enzymes are added, and produces a paste-like substance. This reaction produces fructose, or C6H12O6.  The rest of the procedure is best summed up from the following excerpt, ” The now broken down liquid is passed through activated (reacting) carbon and is filtered. What results is an isotope of HFCS(High Fructose Corn Syrup). However, in order to be used as a sweetener for soda pop, the isotope must be combined with another isotope of HFCS. After then, the process is complete and it can be used for soda pop.” There are other things put in by companies, too, like:

  • Phosphoric Acid:

    H3PO4, Phosphoric acid makes that sensation that makes it hard to chug soda, you know, the burning fizziness. (And that is why I don’t like to drink soda! Thanks a lot,  phosphoric acid!) Most of the acidity in soda is from phosphoric acid, not from carbonation. It also slows bacteria growth,  which are lively in sugary solutions.

  • Caffeine:

    A  stimulant drug in the human body, acting upon the central nervous system, people often use soda to keep themselves awake. This caffeine is also used to get people addicted to soda, so they buy more. Soda can be used to solve headaches, but, more often than not, more than a few sips will do the opposite. However, it doesn’t affect the taste!

Co2 is that fizziness when you open a soda can. Carbon dioxide is often forced into these tiny cans at high pressure, about 1,200 pounds per square inch!The best way to explain it, “The “fssst” you hear is millions of carbon dioxide molecules bursting out of their sweet, watery prisons, where they have been held against their will.” Something interesting I learned was that an unopened can can technically be bubble-free, as the CO2 is still dissolved in the soda!  Once the can is opened, pressure is released and the bubbles try to get out of the liquid. This uses energy, as it has to “… overcome the force holding the liquid together.” While I don’t drink soda much, this was interesting because it is usually the main drink at parties! So next time you pick up a can of soda, just think, do I really need that extra dose of sugar and caffeine?


P.S. Please vote for my friend Sarah! She writes a blog 10 times better than mine, called Avogadro Salad, and is up for an edublog award! Please support her by taking a minute to vote for her! She is currently at number 2! Please help her get to number one! Thanks! Link: )

So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Hot and Cold

With the frigid weather that comes with the holidays, I decided to pick a, well, warmer topic. And what is a better topic than what I use, or something similar anyway, for marching band! Which, just for the record, is every bit as fun as it is cold! But these hot pack things, as I call them, are really wonderful. Some heat packs are single use, but the ones in the following article are multi-use.

Before you open a package, you need to know what’s in them. They are what’s considered a closed system. That means that everything needed for the reaction to occur and reset itself is inside the pack. In these reusable packs, there is a metal disk and gel. the gel is usually sodium acetate in water or another different supersaturated solution. One article states, “The salt – sodium acetate in this case – can be forced to dissolve even after saturation occurs by heating the solution. When brought back to room temperature, the sodium acetate does not return to its solid state, but creates a clear gel. Since the water is now holding a greater load of salt than it would otherwise accept, the resulting solution is very unstable. This is known as supersaturation.” As my chemistry class is currently learning about electrons and configuration, I thought this tidbit about being unstable was relevant. The metal disk breaks the unstable solution apart. The disk itself is concave, and snaps back and forth when pressure is applied. This snapping starts a reaction throughout the entire solution, which causes the salt to crystalize. One site states it best: the salt creates “…a lattice of solid sodium acetate that turns the gel inside the pack opaque. Heat is the byproduct of this reaction…When sodium acetate dissolves in water it dissociates, meaning the sodium ion separates from the rest of the molecule. The salt is willing to dissociate up until the solution is saturated, at which point extra energy in the form of heat has to be added to force the sodium ion away.” The higher the temperature of the solution becomes, the more slat that is dissolved, which, at the same time, can absorb more heat energy. Once the sodium acetate form crystals, more heat energy is released, enough to dissolve the solid. The heat pack can then be boiled in water again until clear gel appears. This means it is supersaturated again, and is ready for use.

I play a lot of sports in addition to marching band, and using it on muscles, or to warm up, makes this a great item. Even if it wears out over time, this product is still worth the price, as it can only help you in the long term.


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reactions soon!