Today I Learned: what's the connection between candy and fireworks?
Today I Learned: what's the connection between candy and fireworks?
The answer lies in the red fireworks.

do you know? Strontium-an element now mainly used in picture tubes and fireworks-was once used to make sugar.

the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century was an era in which new elements were constantly discovered. Since Lavasil put forward the concept of "element" in 1789, new elements have been discovered at a rate of almost one a year in the following two decades. And among them is strontium. In 1790, Adair Crawford discovered a new element in the ore of the Scottish town of Strontian. Thomas Charles Hope confirmed the discovery in 1793 and named the new element Strontium. In 1808, strontium and its alkaline earth brothers magnesium, calcium and barium were proposed by Humphry Davy by electrolysis, which was formally displayed in front of the world.

at the same time, the 19th century was also a time when earth-shaking revolutions took place in sugar production. Sugar cane symbolizes the New World, sugar beets symbolize native Europe, capital, industrialization, science, patents-with these key words, you may be able to write a long adventure novel. In this context, the eyes of capitalist scientists also fell on molasses.

whether sugar cane or sugar beet is used as raw material, a scrap called molasses is produced when making sugar. As the name suggests, molasses actually contains a certain amount of sucrose, but because it is combined with other substances, it cannot continue to crystallize directly by evaporation. Sugar cane molasses contains about 8% sucrose, while beet molasses contains more sugar, which contains 50% sucrose. This is usually the reason why the big sugar-producing countries are in the tropics: sugar cane is more suitable for the tropics and is more efficient in sugar production; sugar beets like cold and are afraid of heat, and only countries or regions that are not suitable for growing sugar cane will use sugar beets as the main sugar-producing plants. So how to use these sugar-rich beet molasses? In the laboratory, we can add 1:1 glacial acetic acid to beet molasses and then rest for 12 hours, there will be small particles of sucrose crystals, and the purity is quite high. However, because there is no effective method to recover glacial acetic acid, it can not be used in practical industrial production.

and the first job of strontium appeared at this time. In 1849, French chemists Augustin-Pierre Dubrunfaut and Hippolyte Leplay registered a patent for strontium sugar production. The ore in the town of Strontian is mainly composed of strontium carbonate, which can be calcined to obtain strontium hydroxide. Strontium hydroxide is added to near-boiling molasses and it reacts with sucrose to form strontium sucrose that is insoluble in water. Although insoluble in water, strontium sucrose can be dissolved in strontium hydroxide solution. The carbon dioxide can then be reduced to sucrose solution and strontium carbonate precipitation. In this way, while extracting sucrose, most of the strontium can still be recycled.

this process was introduced to Germany in 1869 and was later improved by the German chemist Carl Shiebler. For most sugar mills, this process may not be very cost-effective: molasses can be used as feed or wine, not completely useless. However, Germany itself is rich in strontium minerals, so Shiebler strongly recommends that sugar mills use this technology to increase sugar production. Before World War I, sugar beets used 10-150000 tons of strontium hydroxide a year. The process was still in use until the beginning of the 20th century.

now, a similar process is used to make sugar from molasses, but the element that works is calcium rather than strontium. The main use of strontium is the production of picture tubes. Only the use of making fireworks has not changed since ancient times, and its bright red flame reaction is particularly moving in the night sky.

PS: strontium 90 is a fission product of uranium, so we often see its terrible effects in nuclear explosions or nuclear accidents. Because its properties are similar to calcium, it will affect the health of human bones in nuclear contamination events. However, it is precisely because of this that its isotope strontium 89 is used to treat bone cancer.

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PSPS: the story about German sugar and the impact of the war on the sugar industry is actually quite interesting, but I can't write it down. I can't write down the story of strontium and bone cancer falling in love and killing each other.

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