Candy Chemistry Projects

Candy chemistry projects are great because the materials are easy to find, students and kids enjoy eating leftovers, and the ingredients in candy work in several chemistry demonstrations. Here are a few of my favorite candy projects.

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In the chemical reaction, the Gummi (Gummy) Bears dance in a flame, not with each other.
In the chemical reaction, the Gummi (Gummy) Bears dance in a flame, not with each other. Glow Images, Getty Images

The sucrose or table sugar in a Gummi Bear candy reacts with potassium chlorate, causing the candy bear to "dance." This is a highly exothermic, spectacular reaction. The candy ultimately burns, in a tube filled with purple flame. The reaction fills the room with the odor of caramel.

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Candy. Marinoe

Separate the pigments of brightly-colored candies using coffee filter paper chromatography. Compare the rate at which different colors move through paper and learn how molecule size affects mobility.

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Candy Drops
Candy Drops. Foodcollection RF/ Getty Images

Cooking is a practical form of chemistry. This peppermint candy recipe identifies the chemicals in the ingredients and gives measurements in much the same way you would outline a protocol for a lab experiment. It's a fun candy chemistry project, particularly around the holiday season.

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The mentos & diet cola fountain is easy and fun.
Just drop a roll of mentos all at once into a 2-liter bottle of diet cola. Anne Helmenstine

Drop a roll of Mentos candies into a bottle of diet soda and watch foam spray out of the soda! This is a classic candy science project. It works with regular sweetened carbonated beverages, but you'll get sticky. The coating on Mentos candies and their size/shape make them work better than substitutes.

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Rock candy consists of sugar crystals.
Rock candy consists of sugar crystals. You can grow rock candy yourself. If you don't add any coloring the rock candy will be the color of the sugar you used. You can add food coloring if you'd like to color the crystals. Anne Helmenstine

The simplest form of candy is pure sugar or sucrose. Make a concentration sucrose solution, add coloring and flavoring, and you'll get sugar crystals or rock candy. It's a good chemistry project for the younger crowd, but also appropriate for older explorers studying crystal structures.

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Pure sugar crystals and pure crystal meth both are clear.
Pure sugar crystals and pure crystal meth are clear. In Breaking Bad, Walt's crystal meth was blue because of the chemicals he used in production. Jonathan Kantor, Getty Images

No, I'm not suggesting you make crystal meth. However, if you're a fan of the AMC television series "Breaking Bad", you can make the stuff they used in lieu of the drug. It was a form of sugar crystals -- easy to make and also legal.

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Candy Sugar Molecule Model
Candy Sugar Molecule Model. Image Source, Getty Images

Use gumdrops or other chewy candies connected with toothpicks or licorice to form models of atoms and molecules. If you are making molecules, you can color-code the atoms. No matter how much candy you use, it will still be less expensive than a molecule kit, although it won't be reusable if you eat your creations.

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Hard candies often spark in the dark.
Hard candies often spark in the dark. Tracy Kahn, Getty Images

 When you crush sugar crystals together, they emit triboluminescence. Lifesaver Wint-o-Green candies work especially well for making a spark in the dark, but just about any sugar-based hard candy can be used for this science trick. Try to get as much saliva out of your mouth as you can and then crunch the candies with your molars. Be sure to let your eyes adjust to the dark and then either chew-and-show for a friend or else watch yourself in a mirror.

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These are maple syrup crystals, grown on a blue plate for contrast.
These are maple syrup crystals, grown on a blue plate for contrast. Anne Helmenstine

Rock candy isn't the only type of candy crystal you can grow. Use the natural sugars in maple syrup to grow edible crystals. These crystals are naturally flavored and colored a deep golden brown. If you dislike the bland flavor of rock candy, you may prefer maple syrup crystals.

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Pop Rocks Candy
Pop Rocks Candy. Getty Images

Pop Rocks are a type of candy that cracks and pops on your tongue. The secret is in the chemical process used to make the candy. Eat Pop Rocks and learn how chemists managed to compress carbon dioxide gas inside the 'rocks'. Once your saliva dissolves enough sugar, the interior pressure bursts apart the remaining candy shell.