Chemical Reactions With Sugar

••• Lauren Burke/Lifesize/Getty Images

Sugar reacts with many different substances to produce many effects. Some of these experiments produce fantastic visual effects, which can help to engage people with science and chemistry experiments.

Sugar is itself a chemical, as it contains molecules which can react with other chemicals to form new compounds and products. All chemical experimentation must be performed by qualified persons in an environment designed for such experiments, taking appropriate safety precautions at all times.

Sugar and Yeast

Yeast is a type of fungus used in the fermentation process and uses sugar as its food source, with carbon dioxide as one of the products.

Mix sugar, yeast and warm water in a bottle or conical flask. Mix the ingredients together by stirring or gently swirling the container. After mixing, place a balloon over the opening of the bottle or flask by stretching the neck of the balloon so it catches all of the gases produced by the chemical reaction. Watch as the balloon inflates with the carbon dioxide produced.

Potassium Chlorate and Sugar

Potassium chlorate and sugar, when activated with concentrated sulfuric acid, produce a spectacular, flaming reaction. This experiment is sometimes knows as the "magic wand" or "instant fire," as it produces a bright and large flash of flame.

Mix the dry sugar and potassium chlorate together in a flame- and heat-proof container. Add a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid to this mixture. Watch from a safe distance as blue flames erupt from the container.

Only those qualified to handle these substances should perform these experiments. The container may break during this reaction, so a safe distance is essential. Perform this experiment in a fume hood or very well-ventilated area.

Sulfuric Acid and Sugar

Upon mixing sugar and sulfuric acid together, the sugar becomes dehydrated and a carbon substance is left behind. This carbon looks like a foam and appears to "grow" out of the container. This produces a visual effect like that of a black worm emerging from the container.

Place sugar in a heat-proof container and in a well-ventilated area, such as a fume hood. Add a small amount of sulfuric acid and stand at a safe distance to see the reaction take place.

Sulfuric acid can be extremely dangerous, and only people qualified to handle this should do so.


About the Author

Jess Smith has been a writer and editor since 2008. She served as co-editor-in-chief for the "Edinburgh University Science" magazine. Smith holds a Master of Science in neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh.

Photo Credits

  • Lauren Burke/Lifesize/Getty Images