Cute Cotton Candy Chemistry


I absolutely love cotton candy. Not like. LOVE. If you ever want to bribe me to do something, use cotton candy. Due to my obsession with cotton candy, which I only ever get when I’m at a carnival or zoo, when I read my friend Lindsey’s chemistry post on it, i just had to do one, too!

Cotton candy, as seen in her blog post, is made entirely of sugar! The stuff you put in the cotton candy machine is called floss, or, sometimes, fairy floss! Anyway, Lindsey describes sugar in a really simple way: “Sugar is a carbohydrate. Sucrose is a type of sugar. Sucrose is a chemical used in chemistry. The chemical formula is C12H22O11. Sucrose has 12 Carbon atoms, 22 Hydrogen atoms, and 11 Oxygen atoms.”  Artificial flavoring, along with dye, are also used, and that gives it the trademark pink or blue color.

One other post by another blogger stated his dislike about not having the cotton candy fresh on a stick, and explained more about how it’s made.  “When you pour sugar into the center of a cotton candy machine, the coils inside heat the sugar to its melting point and break the bonds of the constituent molecules. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms rearrange to form water molecules and promptly evaporate, leaving only carbon behind. The carbon burns, and the sugar begins to caramelize.”

I, too, am a fresh cotton candy person myself, as it is more fun and tastes better when fresh from the machine. Once the sugar floss is in the machine, and after the caramelization, the machine continues revolutions (about 60 per second) and the now hot sugar is forced in a circular motion through the machine from tiny holes in the side. These sugar strands turn solid as soon as they are exposed to the cool air around it.

Cotton candy is one of the only delights that is both commonly seen at fairs and carnivals and needs a special machine that allows the magic of fluffy goodness to melt in your mouth.