How does popping candy work?

How does popping candy work?

How does popping candy work?

How does popping candy work?

– Jennifer

If you’ve increased your lollipop intake in the past few weeks (we certainly did) Cosmos), you may have tried some popping candy. It’s a treat and a science experiment in one, causing a tingling sensation on the tongue and a delicious crackle when eaten.

But what causes that popping sensation?

You’d think it’s a chemical reaction, but it’s actually a pretty cool combination of gases and heat. Precise recipes vary from brand to brand, but popping candy is usually a mixture of a few different sugars and small pressurized gas bubbles, usually carbon dioxide. For this reason, it is also referred to as “gassed candy” in some patent applications.

The gas is added to sugar smelters at high pressure — at least two or three times the typical sea level air pressure, and sometimes much higher. With the right combination of temperature and pressure, the sugar forms small crystals, each containing multiple gas bubbles about a tenth to a fifth millimeter in diameter.

Sugar dissolves in water, so when the candy makes contact with your tongue, the water in your saliva breaks these bubbles down. The pressurized gas escapes, sometimes with enough force to crack the rest of the candy crystal. This is the cause of the tingling, popping sensation.

Both the bubbles and the crystals are very small, so the amount of force involved in these cracks probably won’t cause any problems. But in a small amount of bad news, at least one lab study has shown that popping candy can have an effect on tooth enamel.

If you want to look at gassed candies but are concerned about your teeth, you can add it to plain water instead – this will make it explode too.

This is particularly good news, as it means that popping candy can be used in chemical reactions. Last year, a group of Chinese and Australian chemists used popping candy to extract some key molecules from vinegar and two alcoholic beverages: beer and Baijiu, a liqueur made from fermented grain. This opens the way for a range of potential applications in the production of pharmaceuticals or food additives.

The carbon dioxide released by the popping candies proved to be the perfect way to stir the mixtures and disperse the relevant substances. And because it uses edible sugars, the method is more environmentally conscious and the ingredients remain safe to ingest at the end.


Why is the sky blue? What exactly is carbon capture and storage? Why is my vacuum cleaner making that noise? How does bitcoin work? And can Yoda really force Palpatine?

There is no such thing as a stupid scientific question, but sometimes the answers can be hard to find.

This summer we are collaborating with ACM for the Summer of science: Ask us something! Send us your most curious chemistry riddle, mind-boggling physics problem, or any science question and we’ll get our journalists on the case.



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