Earning your Chemistry merit badge will help you to better understand the science of reactions and why matter behaves the way it does. While chemistry can be pretty complicated, it can also be very fun! If you’ve ever made a baking soda volcano, cooked an onion, or even just lit a match, that’s chemistry. 😀
For most Scouts, the perfect time to get started on the Chemistry merit badge will be when taking a chemistry class of their own in school. In this fascinating badge, you’ll perform experiments, learn about the chemistry profession, and discover how chemical reactions help to run the world around us!
If you‘d like my help with any Eagle-required badges, you should definitely check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I know this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!
Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!
To better understand the science of our world, it’s time to dive into learning and earning your Chemistry mb! First, take a minute to thoroughly read through each of the merit badge requirements listed below. Then, I’ll be taking you step-by-step through each answer so that you can safely and confidently improve your skills and knowledge of chemistry.
Alright then, time to get going! Let’s start by reading and understanding all of the requirements that’ll be necessary to earn your Chemistry merit badge.
What Are The Chemistry Merit Badge Requirements?
- Do EACH of the following activities:
1a. Describe three examples of safety equipment used in a chemistry laboratory and the reason each one is used.
1b. Describe what a safety data sheet (SDS) is and tell why it is used.
1c. Obtain an SDS for both a paint and an insecticide. Compare and discuss the toxicity, disposal, and safe-handling sections for these two common household products.
1d. Discuss the safe storage of chemicals. How does the safe storage of chemicals apply to your home, your school, your community, and the environment?
- Do EACH of the following activities:
2a. Predict what would happen if you placed an iron nail in a copper sulfate solution. Then, put an iron nail in a copper sulfate solution. Describe your observations and make a conclusion based on your observations. Compare your prediction and original conclusion with what actually happened. Write the formula for the reaction that you described.
2b. Demonstrate how you would separate sand (or gravel) from water. Describe how you would separate table salt from water, oil from water, and gasoline from motor oil. Name the practical processes that require these kinds of separations and how the processes may differ.
2c. Describe the difference between a chemical reaction and a physical change.
- Construct a Cartesian diver. Describe its function in terms of how gases in general behave under different pressures and different temperatures. Describe how the behavior of gases affects a backpacker at high altitudes and a scuba diver underwater.
- Do EACH of the following activities:
4a. Cut a round onion into small chunks. Separate the onion chunks into three equal portions. Leave the first portion raw. Cook the second portion of onion chunks until the pieces are translucent. Cook the third portion until the onions are caramelized, or brown in color. Taste each type of onion. Describe the taste of raw onion versus partially cooked onion versus caramelized onion. Explain what happens to molecules in the onion during the cooking process.
4b. Describe the chemical similarities and differences between toothpaste and an abrasive household cleanser. Explain how the end use or purpose of a product affects its chemical formulation.
4c. In a clear container, mix a half-cup of water with a tablespoon of oil. Explain why the oil and water do not mix. Find a substance that will help the two combine, and add it to the mixture. Describe what happened, and explain how that substance worked to combine the oil and water.
- List the five classical divisions of chemistry. Briefly describe each one, and tell how it applies to your everyday life.
- Do EACH of the following activities:
6a. Name two government agencies that are responsible for tracking the use of chemicals for commercial or industrial use. Pick one agency and briefly describe its responsibilities.
6b. Define pollution. Explain the chemical impacts on the ozone layer and global climate change.
6c. Using reasons from chemistry, describe the effect on the environment of ONE of the following:
—The production of aluminum cans
—Burning fossil fuels
—Single-use items, such as water bottles, bags, straws, or paper
6d. Briefly describe the purpose of phosphates in fertilizer and in laundry detergent. Explain how the use of phosphates in fertilizers affects the environment. Explain why phosphates have been removed from laundry detergents.
- Do ONE of the following activities:
7a. Visit a laboratory and talk to a chemist. Ask what that chemist does, and what training and education are needed to work as a chemist.
7b. Using resources found at the library and in periodicals, books, and the Internet (with your parent’s permission), learn about two different kinds of work done by chemists, chemical engineers, chemical technicians, or industrial chemists. For each of the positions, find out the education and training requirements.
7c. Visit an industrial plant that makes chemical products or uses chemical processes and describe the processes used. What, if any, by-products are produced and how they are handled.
7d. Visit a county farm agency or similar governmental agency and learn how chemistry is used to meet the needs of agriculture in your county.
Chemistry can be a lot of fun, especially when you begin lab experiments! You’ve probably seen in movies where the goofy kid “accidentally” adds too much of one chemical, or knocks something over, and then there’s a catastrophic explosion. Don’t let that be you! Make sure to put safety first.
For chemistry, accidents are actually a common concern that you should be prepared for. Chemistry can be dangerous, so it is crucial that you know how to be safe in a laboratory! Below, we’ll be going over how to do exactly that. 😀
Do EACH of the following activities:
1a) Describe three examples of safety equipment used in a chemistry laboratory and the reason each one is used.
There are many different types of safety equipment that are used in a chemistry laboratory. However, three of the most important types of safety equipment that you should know how to use are:
|Chemical fume hoods||Fume hoods capture, dilute, and remove airborne contaminants to prevent exposure to harmful substances.|
|Safety goggles||Safety goggles protect your eyes and surrounding areas from hazardous substances that may splash and cause blindness.|
|Fire extinguishers||Used to put out fires before they become unmanageable.|
Chemical Fume Hoods: A fume hood is a piece of safety equipment that is a ventilated enclosure to perform experiments in. This ensures you’re breathing clean air. In the event that substances vaporize or turn to gas (AKA volatile substances), the fume hood contains and filters them. It captures, dilutes, and removes airborne contaminates so you aren’t exposed to them.
Check out this picture of a chemical fume hood below:
Safety Goggles: Safety goggles protect the eyes and surrounding areas from hazardous substances that may splash and cause blindness like strong acids, bases, or other chemicals. Some safety goggles even offer protection from UV or laser lights. Be sure to use actual chemical safety goggles to ensure you’re protected (they’re different than swimming goggles!).
Fire Extinguisher: A fire extinguisher is used to put out small fires before they turn into larger, unmanageable ones. There are different types of fire extinguishers used for different types of fires. Refer to the chart below for more detail:
|Class A extinguishers||For ordinary combustibles|
|Class B extinguishers||For flammable liquids such as solvents and oils|
|Class C extinguishers||For electrical equipment|
|Class D extinguishers||For combustible metals and metal alloys|
1b) Describe what a safety data sheet (SDS) is and why it is used.
Safety is an important part of our everyday lives. Remember how we mentioned that explosions could occur in a chemistry lab? While that would certainly be exciting, we don’t want that to happen (unless they’re intended 😛 ). Accidents in a lab have a high chance of causing significant harm, which makes safety in a chemistry lab extremely important!
A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a detailed document prepared by the manufacturer or supplier of a chemical product. The SDS describes the physical and chemical properties, health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures for using any chemical.
SDSs are important to read and follow — especially before performing any experiment — for 3 important reasons:
|Safety data sheet (SDS)||Its purpose|
|Information||Details about the chemical’s composition, first aid, accidental release measures, etc.|
|Safety measures||Details on safely handling, storing, and disposing of chemicals to protect oneself.|
|Emergency procedures||First-aid, firefighting, and procedures to control spills or leaks.|
- Information: An SDS will provide essential information about the chemical, including its composition, and hazard identification, along with the measures to take for first aid, firefighting, accidental release, and more.
- Safety Measures: You’ll also learn how to safely handle, store, and dispose of the chemical. You’ll even find information on how to protect yourself from chemical hazards, such as recommended types of protective clothing and equipment.
- Emergency Procedures: Most importantly, tour SDS will tell you what to do in case of an emergency, such as a large spill or exposure. This can include first aid, fire prevention, and measures taken to control a spill or leak.
1c) Obtain an SDS for both a paint and an insecticide. Compare and discuss the toxicity, disposal, and safe-handling sections for these two common household products.
A safety data sheet (SDS) usually comes with the purchase of a chemical, such as a paint or insecticide, but can also be found on the manufacturer’s website. You can also search for your product on ChemicalSafety.com’s database, as they have a large collection of SDSs.
Locating your SDS: You can very often find a product’s SDS on the manufacturer’s website. This can typically be found in the “Resources”, “Safety”, or “Product Information” sections. Alternatively, you can also find these documents by doing a simple web search with the (product name) and the term “Safety Data Sheet” listed afterward.
Understanding the SDS: The SDS will typically have several sections that provide detailed information about the substance. Some key sections include:
- Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification
- Section 4: First aid Measures
- Section 6: Accidental release measures
- Section 8: Exposure controls/personal protection
- Section 11: Toxicological Information
- Section 13: Disposal Considerations
In the case of paint and insecticide, below is an example of the toxicity, disposal, and safe-handling sections you’ll likely find:
|Toxicity||Low acute toxicity, may cause eye or skin irritation upon direct contact.||High acute toxicity can be harmful or fatal if swallowed, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled.|
|Disposal||Should not be disposed of down the drain or in the regular trash. Recycle or dispose of at a hazardous waste facility.||Must not be disposed of in the environment. Empty containers should be taken to an approved waste handling site for recycling or disposal.|
|Safe-handling||Use in a well-ventilated area, wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection.||Use only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection. Wash thoroughly after handling.|
1d) Discuss the safe storage of chemicals. How does the safe storage of chemicals apply to your home, your school, your community, and the environment?
Have you ever seen a child-proof cap on pill bottles or laundry detergent? What about baby-proof locks on a medicine cabinet? These are all devices used to keep dangerous chemicals away from children (anyone recall the tide pod challenge? 🙁 ). Remember, even light exposure to hazardous chemicals can cause illness, injury, or even death.
It’s important to understand exactly how you can keep chemicals safely stored in a variety of environments. Refer to the chart below for more information on proper chemical storage:
|Home||Store out of reach of children and pets. Also avoid storing near food, extreme heat, or cold.|
|School||Store in separate cabinets according to compatibility groups.|
|Community||Special storage space with adequate ventilation, temperature control, and spill cleaning materials. Also do regular inspections to prevent leakage.|
|Environment||Make sure the chemical storage facilities are located away from sensitive ecosystems, water sources, and populated areas.|
Chemical Storage at Home
Common household chemicals include cleaning supplies, paints, pesticides, and motor oils. These should be stored out of reach of children and pets. Ideally, they should be stored in a locked cabinet or out of the home in a ventilated shed.
Do not store chemicals near food or in places with extreme temperatures as this can cause either contamination or the chemical containers can break. Extreme temperatures can also change a chemical’s properties, rendering them ineffective or more dangerous, so keep them at the temperature recommended on their SDS.
Chemical Storage at School
Chemical storage in schools requires a chemical storage area or cabinet that is ventilated, secure, and temperature controlled. They should be sorted by compatibility groups, and old chemicals should be disposed of regularly. The school staff needs to be trained in proper chemical handling and storage, as well as emergency responses.
Chemical Storage in the Community
Chemical storage for communities often means businesses and industries like factories, farms, research labs, and more. Regular inspections, maintenance, and updating of storage facilities are vital. There should be a detailed and well-communicated emergency response plan in place.
Companies must store all chemicals in accordance with local laws. Often, this means a regulated specialized storage space with adequate ventilation, temperature control, and spill-cleaning materials.
Chemical Storage in the Environment
When considering the environment at large, the safe storage of chemicals is crucial to prevent pollution and contamination of soil, water, and air. Industries that use large quantities of chemicals should have containment strategies in place to prevent leaks and spills.
Environmental chemical storage measures might include physical containment structures, monitoring systems to detect leaks, and procedures for regular inspection and maintenance. It’s important that chemical storage facilities are located away from sensitive ecosystems, water sources, and populated areas, to minimize the impact of any potential spills or accidents.
Do EACH of the following activities:
2a) Predict what would happen if you placed an iron nail in a copper sulfate solution. Then, put an iron nail in a copper sulfate solution. Describe your observations and make a conclusion based on your observations. Compare your prediction and original conclusion with what actually happened. Write the formula for the reaction that you described.
Chemistry is all about the reactions that occur between different properties. When certain compounds come into contact, they’ll react differently based on their molecular structure. Below is a great video (3:46) on the science of chemical reactions, which I’d recommend reviewing before we dive into this experiment.
Do you now better understand how reactions occur through the introduction of various properties? Great! Now that you know what causes a chemical reaction, let’s start by understanding what the reaction between iron and copper sulfate might be.
The reaction between iron and copper sulfate is a displacement reaction, a type of oxidation-reduction chemical reaction. In this reaction, iron displaces copper from copper sulfate, resulting in iron sulfate and copper.
The chemical equation for this reaction is:
Fe(s) + CuSO4(aq) → FeSO4(aq) + Cu(s)
Now, let’s move on to predicting what will happen in this reaction…
Iron is more reactive than copper. Therefore, when an iron nail is placed in a copper sulfate solution, the iron should displace the copper from the solution. The copper sulfate solution, which is initially blue, should gradually lose its blue color as the copper is displaced and iron sulfate, a greenish substance, is formed.
When iron nails are put into copper sulfate solution, the blue color of the copper sulfate solution fades gradually and reddish-brown copper metal is formed. Additionally, one might see copper metal forming on the iron nail.
However, that’s just what seems likely to occur based on the compounds we’re discussing. You should try making your own hypothesis, based on your intuition and what we just covered! Here are some quick tips on how to make a hypothesis, observe, and come to a conclusion. 😀
- Making a hypothesis: A hypothesis generally follows the format, “If__________, then _______ will happen”. For example, “If an iron nail is placed in a copper sulfate solution, then the solution will change color and copper will form on the nail”.
- Making observations: When making observations, there are two types you can make, qualitative and quantitative.
- Qualitative observations are when you record observations like colors, smells, textures, and other observations you can’t use a number to describe.
- Quantitative observations are when you record observations such as weight, amounts of objects or substances, or other observations that can be recorded with a number.
- Be sure to include both types of observations in your report.
- Drawing conclusions: Use your observations to conclude whether your hypothesis was correct or incorrect. For example, if you observed that the copper sulfate solution changed color when a nail was added, and that copper formed on the nail, your observations prove your hypothesis was correct.
|Hypothesis prediction||Observation||Conclusion||Chemical reaction formula|
|“If an iron nail is placed in a copper sulfate solution, then the solution will change color and copper will form on the nail.”||Color change (reddish-brown) in the solution, the formation of copper on the nail, and any changes in the appearance of the nail itself.||As predicted, a color change is seen when iron is placed in copper sulfate.||Fe(s) + CuSO4(aq) → FeSO4(aq) + Cu(s)|
I highly recommend you watch this cool experiment in real time! Starting around the 3:00 minute mark, you can see the reaction start (though I also recommend you watch the beginning of the video to see how the experiment is set up)! You can watch the rust form on the nail, and if you skip to the 4:54 mark, you can see the results after 12 hours!
2b) Demonstrate how you would separate sand (or gravel) from water. Describe how you would separate table salt from water, oil from water, and gasoline from motor oil. Name the practical processes that require these kinds of separations and how the processes may differ.
Have you ever mixed a powder like Gatorade, kool-aid, or even salt into some water? As you stir or shake the powder into your liquid, you might notice that the powder disappears. But, did you know, you can actually reverse this process? You can evaporate the liquid and get the powder back!
Cool right? Well, there are actually a lot of ways we can separate several substances from each other in chemistry! These are called methods of separation. I highly recommend you take some time to watch this video (7:28) before moving on so you fully understand the science of separation.
Separating Sand or Gravel from Water:
You can separate sand or gravel from water through a process called sedimentation and decantation. If you allow the mixture to stand, the sand or gravel will settle to the bottom due to its higher density. This is sedimentation.
Then, you can gently pour off the water, being careful not to disturb the settled sand or gravel. This is decantation. For more thorough separation, you can use filtration. Pouring the mixture through a filter (like a coffee filter or a fine sieve) will allow the water to pass through while capturing the sand or gravel.
Here is a great video (1:18) showing how to separate sand from water. Skip ahead to 0:50 to see the separation method. 🙂
Separating Table Salt from Water
Salt dissolves in water, forming a solution. You can use a process called evaporation to separate salt from water. If you heat the saltwater gently, the water will gradually evaporate, leaving the salt behind. This method is used on a large scale to obtain salt from seawater in salt pans.
Below is a great video (2:33) demonstration. Skip ahead to the 1-minute mark to see the salt water being boiled, and then to the 2-minute mark to see the results!
Separating Oil from Water
Oil and water are immiscible liquids, meaning they don’t mix. You may use a separatory funnel to separate oil from water, as the oil will float on the water as a result of variations in density. You may separate the water from the oil by gradually removing the water below (or the oil above).
In this helpful video (1:48) demonstration, starting at 0:40, you can see how the oil and water cannot mix. Shortly after, you’ll learn how to use a funnel to separate them!
Separating Gasoline from Motor Oil
Gasoline and motor oil have different boiling points, so you can separate them using distillation. The mixture is heated, and since gasoline has a lower boiling point, it will evaporate first. The gasoline vapor is then cooled and condensed back into a liquid in a separate container. The motor oil, with a higher boiling point, remains behind.
Separating gasoline from oil is a pretty dangerous and technical process, which I would never recommend doing, but it’s very similar to the way that gasoline is processed from crude oil. For a helpful visual demonstration, check out the video below for experiment setup (1:12), process (20:45), and results (26:55)!
That is a lot of info! To help you remember the most important facts, here’s a cheat sheet. 😀
|Separation Process||Method||Practical Process|
|Sand or gravel from water||Sedimentation, decantation, or filtration||Filter drinking water|
|Table salt from water||Evaporation||Harvest sea salt|
|Oil from water||Separatory Funnel||Wastewater treatment|
|Gasoline from motor oil||Distillation||Remove contamination|
2c) Describe the difference between a chemical reaction and a physical change.
Chemical reactions and physical changes are elements of chemistry that you use in your everyday life without ever really knowing it! For example, did you know that when you boil pasta, you are creating a physical change? And, when you burn a match, that’s a chemical reaction? Chemistry is all around us!
As another example, dying or cutting your hair is a physical change, but when you bake a cake, that’s a chemical reaction! What exactly are the differences between physical changes and chemical reactions, and how can you tell the difference? Keep reading to find out 😛 !
What is a Physical Change
A physical change is when something changes about a substance but its chemical composition is not altered. In some cases, physical changes are reversible. Physical changes can include changes in state (freezing, melting, evaporating, etc), changes in shape, and changes in size.
For example, an ice cube melting is a physical change. This is because the chemical composition of the water has not changed, only the shape and state are different. Another example would be when someone dyes their hair. The color changes, but structurally, the hair molecules are the same.
What is a Chemical Reaction
A chemical reaction involves a transformation in the chemical composition of a substance. The bonds between atoms are broken, and new ones are formed to create new substances, called products. These changes occur at a molecular structure and are often irreversible.
For example, when hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen gas to create water, a chemical reaction takes place. A new substance is made from the reactions. Other examples include baking a cake, burning paper or wood, and milk going sour.
In each example, a reaction occurs where a new substance is formed from the reactants, with the original chemical composition being changed entirely. Here’s another fun cheat sheet to help you remember!
|Type of change||Difference||Example|
|Physical change||A change in the physical properties of a substance without changing its chemical nature. The change is reversible.||Ice melts in water|
|Chemical reaction||A change in the chemical composition, creating a new substance or substances. The change is not easily reversible.||Hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen gas to form water|
3) Construct a Cartesian diver. Describe its function in terms of how gasses in general behave under different pressures and different temperatures. Describe how the behavior of gasses affects a backpacker at high altitudes and a scuba diver underwater.
First off, let’s talk about what a Cartesian diver actually is and does! Basically, your Cartesian diver will be a mini experiment demonstrating the principles of buoyancy and pressure. Setup typically consists of a 1L bottle filled with water, and inside it an eyedropper that’s half-filled with water. The eyedropper is your diver!
When your eyedropper (diver) is placed in a larger volume of water, squeezing the bottle causes the internal pressure to increase, making the diver sink. Releasing the pressure allows the diver to rise. This happens because changes in pressure affect the buoyancy of the air or gas trapped inside the container.
How to Construct a Cartesian Diver
To start constructing a Cartesian diver of your own, first gather the following materials:
- Small eyedropper
- 1-liter (or bigger) clear plastic bottle with cap
- Paperclip or small weight
- Scissors (if needed)
Start by filling the eyedropper by squeezing the bulb at the top and slowly releasing your grip with the dropper tip emersed in water. Then, place your eyedropper in a pot of water and see if it’s close to sinking. If it sinks, let out a bit of water and try again. If it’s full of water and still not close to sinking, attach a weight like a paperclip to the bottom.
Once your eyedropper/diver is barely buoyant, place it in a larger container (like a 1-liter soda bottle) filled with water, plastic side up. Make sure the container is almost entirely full, and then seal it tightly. The small diver should float at the top. With that, you’re ready to begin the experiment!
To ensure you’ve set up your diver correctly, check out this really quick video (1:38) demonstrating how to make and use a Cartesian Diver:
Function of the Cartesian Diver
If you squeeze the sides of the larger container, the diver will sink. Release the pressure, and the diver will rise! So, can you now guess why it’s called a Cartesian diver? It’s because the eyedropper ‘dives’ when you apply pressure to the vessel! Here’s why:
The pressure you apply to the container is transmitted to the water and then to the diver. This pressure compresses the air inside the diver, allowing more water to enter the diver and increase its density. When the diver’s density is greater than the water’s density, it sinks (this is the principle of buoyancy).
When you release the pressure, the air inside the diver expands, pushing out some water and decreasing the diver’s density, so it floats again!
Effects of Gas Behavior on Backpackers and Scuba Divers
The principle of pressure doesn’t only apply to Cartesian divers. Both backpackers at high altitudes and scuba divers deep underwater must understand the effects of pressure on the gasses in and outside their bodies. By understanding how pressure causes gas to behave differently, they’ll remain safe in hazardous conditions.
- Backpackers at High Altitudes: As altitude increases, air pressure decreases. This means there are fewer gas molecules in a given volume of air.
- For a backpacker… this means less oxygen available to breathe in with each breath, which can lead to altitude sickness.
- Additionally, water boils at a lower temperature at high altitudes due to the lower air pressure, which can affect cooking times.
- Scuba Divers: Underwater, pressure increases with depth (about an extra atmosphere of pressure for every 10 meters of water). This increased pressure affects gasses in two main ways. First, it increases the amount of gas that can dissolve in a liquid. Second, the increased pressure compresses gasses, affecting their volume.
- For a scuba diver breathing compressed air… this means more nitrogen dissolves in their blood as they go deeper. This also means that a scuba diver cannot ascend too quickly, or the gasses in their lungs will expand, causing injury or even death.
- Ascending too rapidly will trigger decompression sickness or ‘the bends.’ However, this is prevented by following a decompression schedule when ascending where the diver breathes deeply to release the pressurized air.
Do EACH of the following activities:
4a) Cut a round onion into small chunks. Separate the onion chunks into three equal portions. Leave the first portion raw. Cook the second portion of the onion chunks until the pieces are translucent. Cook the third portion until the onions are caramelized, or brown in color. Taste each type of onion. Describe the taste of raw onion versus partially cooked onion versus caramelized onion. Explain what happens to molecules in the onion during the cooking process.
How many different ways can you think of to eat an onion? Onions can be fried, sauteed, baked, grilled, or even eaten raw! But, have you noticed how the onion will taste different depending on how it’s cooked?
That’s because the heat of cooking creates a chemical reaction within the onion which changes how it tastes! Cool, right? 😀
Raw Onion: Raw onions have a strong, pungent flavor and can taste sharp or spicy. This taste comes from a class of compounds called organosulfur compounds that are produced when the onion cells are damaged, such as when you cut the onion.
Partially Cooked Onion (until translucent): After cooking an onion its flavor becomes milder and sweeter. The heat begins to break down the harsh sulfur compounds into less volatile substances, reducing the onion’s pungency. The onion will also begin to soften.
Caramelized Onion: When onions are caramelized, they take on a rich, sweet, and savory flavor. This is due to a process called the Maillard reaction. During this process, the sugars in the onion react with amino acids under heat, resulting in a complex mixture of molecules that give caramelized onions their characteristic flavor and brown color.
|Stage of onion||Changes in onion molecules||Taste/Flavor||Time cooked|
|Raw onion||Organosulfur remains intact.||Strong, pungent flavor and sharp taste||0 min|
|Partially cooked onion||Harsh sulfur compounds are broken down into less volatile substances.||Milder and sweeter||5-10 mins|
|Caramelized onion||Sugar reacts with amino acids and makes them caramelize. This is known as a Maillard reaction.||Rich, sweet, and savory flavor||15-20 mins|
As you perform this experiment and progress from raw to caramelized onions, you’ll likely notice a transition in flavor from sharp and pungent to sweet and savory. This transformation is a direct result of chemical changes in the onion’s molecules induced by the cooking process!
Make sure to try this experiment out for yourself, and take pictures as you progress! When cooking, use a low-medium heat and let the onion sit, moving it every minute or so. Also, protip: when partially cooking or caramelizing your onion, to prevent burning, add a little bit of oil to the pan and occasionally put a small spoonful of water in.
Congrats on Finishing The First Half of The Chemistry Merit Badge!
We just covered a ton of useful chemistry info! Great work, Scout. Are you starting to better understand this fascinating science? Very soon, you’ll be a pro! You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a massive pat on the back. 🙂
Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Chemistry merit badge click here!
(Part 2 is in progress, subscribe to my newsletter for updates)
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to complete your merit badge worksheets.