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Melting Point

The temperature at which a solid changes into a liquid

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M&M's: How they melt in your mouth, but not your hand!

You pop a delectable, sweet M&M® into your mouth. It melts and you crunch down on the sweet shell around it. Why didn't it melt into your hands when you were holding it?

Credit: Ben Schueddekopf
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79470481@N02/8762077314/in/photolist-emgWjw-dmYZsA-6ysvdn-4kzcgR-4Tpq7j-5pZRtU-8Hnvz5-5N9kE1-9s5NQp-5efW5R-5nEK2v-6fqYg4-DVqV3-88Sub-5y1Gh6-5Vw8vm-aK9Zzv-bSWjGn-4TmS4N-dZrDTw-4JNnnR-5sQV14-4TmReo-4TmRoy-4TmQEU-4ThBXD-bE2AcL-bE2Avb-rQ29w-4TmRC1-bSWouk-dntFNU-5TG3FD-a8H2pa-bSWntX-bE2AGN-bSWjvM-4ThCSR-9mQTnU-bSWk2D-4TmQM3-9cLPpt-6dqCVy-bE2CoN-9bhhr1-4TmR7m-vvr9k-6dqD9C-6dqDjq-6dqDrU-4TmRJ7
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

M&M's [Figure1]

We know that melting point is defined as the temperature at which a solid changes state to a liquid. The melting point of some metals is higher than others, which means that they melt at different temperatures. For example, mercury has a melting point of -37.95 degrees Fahrenheit while iron has a melting point of 2700 degrees Fahrenheit. Because mercury’s melting point is so low, it is rarely found as a solid (because you would have to go to somewhere that is colder than -37.95 °F). Because iron’s melting point is so high, it is rarely found as a liquid (because you would have to heat it up a lot).

When we’re dealing with mixtures and not pure elements like iron and mercury, things are much more complicated.  A mixture won’t have a single melting point but a melting range because each individual ingredient has a different melting point. The melting point of chocolate, for example, is between 61 and 99 °F.  So why doesn’t the M&M melt in your hand?  Take a look at the data below.

Temperature of average human’s palm: between 90 and 95 °F
Temperature of average human’s mouth: about 99 °F
Melting point of chocolate: between 61 and 99 °F

Creative Applications

  1. Based off of the above data, would chocolate technically melt on your hands,too? (Hint- Look at melting point values)
  2. In terms of chocolate, it is very difficult to ensure that every single M&M has the same melting point. What could be another factor that keeps the M&M from melting? (Hint- Think of the structure of the M&M)
  3. What would happen if you removed that barrier? (Hint- Melting point!) 




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