Fun with Gummy Bears

Strewn across the internet are numerous GIFs of random science experiments; however, there’s one in particular that I do love to watch, and it’s called:

“The Gummy Bear Experiment”:

gummybear
Poor little guy, he never saw it coming.

So what exactly is going on in this GIF?

What you’re witnessing is a gummy bear being dropped into a small volume of melted potassium chlorate (KClO3). Now whenever you melt a small chunk of solid KClO3, you end up splitting the compound into “KCl” and “O2”, the latter of which is highly reactive.

Of course, we all know that our unsuspecting bear-shaped victim is mainly made up of sugar, an energy-rich compound. Thus, when you drop the gummy bear into the mixture of KCl and O2, the oxygen immediately reacts with sugar to create CO2 and water. The reason why there is a fiery explosion is because such a reaction is highly “exothermic”. That is, the starting chemicals (sugar) have way more energy than the end-point chemicals. As a result, all that excess energy is lost to the surroundings as heat and light, a phenomenon more commonly known as an “explosion”.

Besides the explosion, what makes this experiment cool is that it allows us to visualize how much energy sugar can actually hold (which is a lot, as you can see). This is why sugar (more specifically, glucose) is the main energy source for our body. Our body is able to oxidize glucose in a similar (and obviously safer) way, but instead of losing the excess energy to the surroundings, our cells capture all that energy and use it to carry out our daily activities.

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