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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Materials science to the rescue: easily removable chewing gum

Halina Stanley investigates the history of chewing gum, how the chemistry of the gum affects its properties, and how scientists are using this knowledge to make chewing gum less of a pollutant.

Here's a taster...

"Love it or hate it, chewing gum is a ubiquitous and usually benign activity. Benign, that is, until some idiot decides to put some in your hair. Wouldn’t it be nice if gum didn’t stick to carpets, shoes and the underside of school desks? Terry Cosgrove, professor of chemistry at Bristol University, UK, has decided to take action; his easily removable chewing gum may save millions in cleaning bills.

"Reducing the stretchiness of chewing gum is not a sensible strategy: who would want to chew a bouncy ball? Instead, Professor Cosgrove has incorporated a hydrophilic (water-loving) polymer into the gum base. When the gum is chewed, the hydrophilic polymer absorbs saliva and softens the gum. It also migrates to the surface. This means that there is always a thin film of water on the surface of the wad of chewing gum after chewing. This persistent film of water ends up between the gum and any surface, preventing close contact and preventing the gum sticking. 

"The addition of the water-loving polymer has another benefit. Ordinary chewing gum is pretty resistant in the environment: it doesn’t dissolve in rain and weathering tends to harden it, which makes it a very persistent pollutant (think of those grey blobs on the pavement!). In contrast, the gum containing a hydrophilic polymer (the non-stick variety of chewing gum) slowly disintegrates in the presence of water.

"The team seems confident that a product will be ready for marketing in the near future. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it proves popular – otherwise we’ll just have to put non-stick coatings on the underside of all the school desks!"

To read the whole article click here...

While on the topic of chewing gum, you can also download our new article 'Setting the Standard in Sugar-Free Gums' where you can read about recent developments, along with some pointers to how texture analysis can help in this and related areas of the confectionery sector. 

Click here to request the article…
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