The Chemistry of Cotton Candy

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Developed over a century ago, cotton candy remains a favorite summertime candy at carnivals, amusement parks, and baseball stadiums. Cotton Candy is a fluffy, light weight treat that is made from melted sugar. Sugar is the only ingredient in Cotton Candy and it is simply spun onto a cardboard tube and bundled in a continuous mass. When the sugar is melted the individual granules are mixed, causing to form a thick, sticky syrup.  After the syrup has intermixed, the syrup is then spun out to create thick strands that harden.

Composition of ...
It is made by melting sugar into thin strands and spun into a continuous mass. Because sugar is naturally white, dyes are put into the cotton candy in order to produce a bright and vivid color.  Dyes and flavors such as Red dye #40,  Yellow dye #5, Yellow dye #6, and blue dye #1. Cotton candy also puts in flavors such as bubble gum, vanilla, watermelon, banana, etc. In order to produce the variety of flavors such as these, artificial or natural flavor-ants are usually used. Fruits, molasses, honey, and maple sugar are natural flavor-ants that come from cotton candy.  Artificial flavors however are mixtures of aromatic chemicals that are produced synthetically from organic reactions. Important artificial flavoring compounds include materials such as methyl anthranilate and ethyl caproate.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components
Cotton candy consists mainly only sugar. Sugar is also known as Sucrose, which is a carbohydrate. Sucrose itself is composed of 12 atoms of carbon, 22 atoms of hydrogen, 11 atoms of oxygen (C12H22O11) Sucrose broken down is glucose combined with fructose. They are joined together by a condensation reaction. C6H12O6 + C6H12O6 => C12H22O11

Chemistry's Role

Sugar is found naturally from most plants such as sugarbeets and sugarcane.  It is also a carbohydrate known as Sucrose.  Sucrose, when broken down, is glucose combined with fructose.  The molecules included in sugar are sucrose, glucose, lactose, fructose, galactose, and maltose. lactose, maltose, and sucrose are all disaccharide type of sugars. However, glucose, fructose, and galactose are all monosaccharide type of sugars. The chemical formula for the disaccharide sugar is C12H22O11.  The monosaccharide chemical formula is  C6H12O6.

Background Research

Cotton candy was originally called “Fairy Floss.” It was renamed because the hardened strands have many of the same characteristics of cotton fiber. Thus being called Cotton Candy. Four men were included in the process of making the very first cotton candy; Thomas Patton, Josef Delarose Lascaux, John C. Wharton, and William Morrison.


About the Author

Madison McGee is a junior at Senior High School. In all honesty, she isn’t a fan of Cotton Candy herself, but she does love where they originate from, amusement parks! Madison loves the outdoors and enjoys boating, camping, and hiking.  Her favorite season is summer and she loves to travel!