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.



Coloring Chemistry?

We recently did a lab in chemistry class were we looked at metal salts and figured out what color they were. Looking into it, I found something equally as awesome. That’s right: chemistry labels for crayons! For each Crayola color, there is a chemical equation for it that sticks right on over the color’s wrapper. It matches the wrapper color, so it looks like it is not even there!

crayola-chemistry.jpg How cool is that?

It is actually quite hot. Why? Because these chemical formulas are not actually in the crayon, they just create the same color when they are burned. These chemicals burn a certain color due to the electrons. The electrons in the metal salt start off at different energy levels. When they are heated up,  they move around faster and more randomly. In one article, the writer put it this way. The flame “supplies thermal energy to the atoms and molecules of the substance, promoting electrons from a ground (lower) energy state to an excited (higher) energy state.” In simpler terms, heat transfers energy to atoms, which cause the electrons within the atom to go from little energy to a lot of energy. Another great explanation that easily explains the colors is also found on the site. ” In simplest terms, when the wavelength is long, the energy is small, and conversely, short wavelengths mean higher energies. Applied to photons emitted during electronic transitions, an electron dropping back to ground level from a very high excited energy state can give off a photon of relatively short wavelength such as blue or even ultraviolet light. Similarly, a small difference in transition energy levels could give rise only to the emission of a relatively long-wavelength photon, such as red light.” In other words,

Long wavelengths = small energy = big difference in energy = blue or ultraviolet light.

Small wavelengths = big energy = small change in energy = red light.

There is much more information with much more detail on the site, and I would highly recommend reading it. The link is the last one below.

There is so much to learn, and I did not truly understand the whole idea as energy as a wavelength. Now I understand that the size of the wavelength determines the properties, and that it can tell you a lot about a substance from looking at it. By applying heat to a certain substance, you can learn more about the different colors, and about what makes that happen!


***BONUS: an awesome YouTube song about colors! Enjoy!***

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