Candy Chromatography – Hidden Dyes in Colored Candies

Candy Chromatography

I opened a bag of M&M’s and there came out a bunch of different colored M&M’s. I picked the red color one and then the green and then the yellow, trying to figure out if different colored candies tasted anything different. And I kept going on and on, until I realized the whole bag of candies had vanished. This is what I did as a kid. I knew that all the M&M candies taste the same and it is just the color which varies but it was a good enough excuse to load myself with sugar. Today, as a mother of two kids, and being aware of all the artificial dyes used in the candies,  I prefer using them for teaching science to my kids in a sweet way,  like this candy chromatography experiment.


Continuing with our Candy science experiment, today we would try to learn the science of Chromatography – separating parts of a mixture by using an absorbent material.  In fact, have you ever wondered what different dyes are used to make a particular colored M&M.  Which colored dyes separate into other colors ? Which candy dyes remain the same ? We would be using a green M&M to do this experiment.

What you need 

  • M&M’s candies
  • Paper towel
  • Saucer and a glass of water
  • Skewer

What to do

Cut the paper towel into strips about an inch wide. Place one end of the strip in the center of the saucer and place the green M&M on top of the paper strip end.

Candy Chromatography using M&M

Place few drops of water on the green M&M. After few minutes, turn the candy over. It would let more color bleeds into the water and eventually to the paper towel strip. Make sure lot of green dye has been transferred to the paper towel strip.

Candy Chromatography using M&M

Place the skewer on top of the glass filled with water. Carefully put the pigmented end of the strip over the skewer into the glass until the strip just touches the water.  Make sure that the strip is not touching the glass sides.

Let the water rise up the strip until it reaches few inches from the top ( it might take few minutes ). Remove the strip from the glass of water. If the water reaches the top of the strip, it might distort your results.

Let the paper strip dry out completely. Watch the colors in the green dye crawl up the paper strips and separate.  As the water is soaked up by the filter paper, it carries the color in the green dye with it. The different blue and yellow pigments in the green dye would travel through the paper at different speed and would slowly separate, making a colorful pattern of blue and yellow.

Candy Chromatography

I wonder which  particular colorful candy contains all the colors of the rainbow ? Any guesses, may be a candy with a black dye ! While we try to figure it out, Happy experimenting  !

If you are looking for some science kits for your kids, then check these out.

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