There is no better way to teach about calories than to light food on fire; calories, after all, are just a measure of heat energy, so burning food really brings the concept to light. While starting food on fire is cool, it pales in comparison to the Gummy Bear Sacrifice demonstration which unleashes all of the calories (energy) from a gummy bear very rapidly (watch it here).
As awesome as the demonstration is, I wanted to see what would happen if I did the same experiment with a huge 5 pound, 6000 Calorie gummy bear! The massive gummy bear exploded into a huge fireball, sending flames several feet in the air and blanketing the entire neighborhood with sweet smelling smoke! It was amazing!
I am providing the video and the information below to help you learn about science, not so you will try this at home - it is incredibly dangerous. So, please don't try this on your own.
Why does the Giant Gummy Bear explode into a fireball?
When you eat a gummy bear your body slowly decomposes the sugar and uses the energy (calories) inside your body (or stores it as fat for later use). In this experiment we are speeding up the decomposition of the sugar calories through a chemical reaction (click to learn about chemical reactions).
First, sodium chlorate (potassium chlorate also works) is heated in a large beaker until it is above 260 degrees Celsius, at this point it turns molten, allowing it to lose its attached oxygen molecules very easily. These oxygen molecules will be needed to keep the reaction progressing because fire (combustion) needs oxygen - more oxygen gives more flame.
The giant gummy bear is dropped into the beaker and the chemical reactions begin (see reactions below). The melting gummy bear causes the sugar inside to be exposed to the heat and oxygen already present from the molten sodium chlorate and bursts into flame!
Extra: Watch the classroom demonstration of the Gummy Bear Sacrifice experiment to see how 7 Calories compares with the 6,000 Calorie Giant Gummy Bear.
Chemical Equations for the Combustion of Sugar in Sodium Chlorate
Sodium Chlorate: NaClO3
Gummy Bear Sugar (Sucrose): C12H22O11
Decomposition reaction of Sodium Chlorate
Sodium chlorate decomposes into solid sodium chloride and oxygen gas
NaClO3(s) --> NaCl(s) + O2(g) [unbalanced]
Balanced chemical equation for sodium chlorate decomposition reaction
2NaClO3(s) --> 2NaCl(s) + 3O2(g)
Combustion reaction of sucrose
Sucrose reacts with oxygen gas to produce carbon dioxide gas and liquid water
C12H22O11(s) + O2(g) --> CO2(g) + H2O(l) [unbalanced]
Balanced chemical equation for sucrose combustion reaction
C12H22O11(s) + 12O2(g) --> 12CO2(g) + 11H2O(l)
Watch as KTVQ-CBS News highlights the Giant Gummy Bear Sacrifice on Montana This Morning.
Keep on Learning! ~Craig Beals