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The Physics Behind the Popping Popcorn.


Popcorn which is a preferred snack among people across all ages has an interesting story in its process of making. The main objective of this article is to unravel how a single kernel can be linked to the pressure, volume and temperature in terms of physics. Now, let us look deeper at how the process of a change from one form into more appealing forms happens in popcorn.



It all starts with hard popcorn kernels. This kernel contains a small amount of water trapped inside. In the early stage, this kernel is small and tense due to the pressure inside. The water inside the kernel is an important element that will undergo changes when the popcorn manufacturing process begins.


The popcorn kernel is heated and as a result of this heating its internal temperature increases. The heating process forces the water inside of the kernel into steaming. The transformation in the energy of such a change does not just include raising the temperature, but also increasing energies transferred to this system.


The resulting steam creates pressure inside the kernel, causing it to become more tense. Therefore, popcorn becomes a story closely related to pressure, and this change in temperature is the trigger for further interesting processes.


 In the kernel, pressure rises at an extremely fast rate. Once the pressure attains a certain value, called "burst pressure," popcorn kernels burst. At this stage, steam is released into the air along with the water and loose popcorn forms.


However, high pressure inside the kernel causes endosperm splitting – often referred to as popcorn- that many people are used with. This step is also accompanied by a great volumetric increase in the size of popcorn because there are enormous amounts of air trapped within the newly formed structure.


Once popped, the resulting popcorn is bigger, lighter, and definitely tastier! The growing volume of popcorn gives the snack that is enjoyed while watching a movie at the cinema or with friends during a group event. This change also gives the popcorn a more crisp and crunchy texture, making it a popular choice among snack lovers.


By understanding more deeply the process of physical changes that take place in the making of popcorn, it proves that science sneaks into each of daily meals. Popcorn is not just a tasty snack, but also an interesting work of physics art. So the next time you enjoy popcorn, remember that you're also witnessing a unique physical transformation, from a hard kernel to a crunchy, delicious snack.

by :

 Mdm Nor Syazana Shamsuddin
 Pegawai Perkhidmatan Pendidikan

Tarikh Input: 29/01/2024 | Kemaskini: 29/01/2024 | hasniah


Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan