Chemistry in Action

On 14th November, a group of Year 12 students attended the event Chemistry in Action, where they heard a number of lectures by Chemists at the cutting edge of their specialisms.

Chocolate

What if I told you that the only people who would possibly enhance your love affair with chocolate are chemists? Professor Paul Walton researched the principle molecules in chocolate to discover how manipulating the structure of chocolate can improve the overall quality.


The flavour of chocolate is made up of many molecules including pyrazine, giving a nutty flavour, tetramethylpyrazine (for the cocoa smell) and tetramethylpyrazine for coffee. However, although the smell of chocolate is a large part of the experience, the taste is what is really desired for chocolate. The research into the structure of chocolate when in solid state mixed with the typical aldehydes such as 2 and 3-methyl-butanal and phenylethanal (malt and honey respectively) could create the perfect chocolate.

During the talk, Professor Walton demonstrated that the flash freezing of the fat molecules, using liquid nitrogen (~-196°C), alters the physical properties of the chocolate. The previously ‘gooey’ state of Cadbury’s chocolate was remodelled into a delicate structure which, when in contact with your tongue, will evaporate rapidly. The perfect chocolate, developed by chemistry!

Noah Robbins 12R1


Indestructible Energy

The first thing we were asked was “what comes to mind when you think of energy?” Is it power? Lightning? Food? Heat? All of these contain energy, but the real question is how much energy. We witnessed a live demonstration of the release of 1 joule of energy – dropping an egg from a height of 1 metre. It wasn’t the most, well, elegant approach, but it without doubt shows the ubiquitous nature of energy. The person who dropped the egg then ate a small sweet, but did they gain back the energy they wasted? The answer is yes, very much so. In fact, a single jelly baby contains 80,000J, enough to raise 80,000 eggs by 1 metre, if you wanted to.


The talk continued, including demonstrations of the fiery explosion of a hydrogen balloon and using body heat to power a paper windmill, and concluded with an insight into the research being done on energy today. This includes the growing demand for more efficient batteries, and powering spacecraft through the thermal energy of plutonium, even when it has far escaped the light of the sun. Energy is everywhere, and we should not forget how we use it every day.

Usman Choudahary 12Y


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