If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.




Dazed By Doughnuts, Toasted Sponges

by Stephen K. Ritter
February 19, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 8

Dazed by doughnuts

Reported in the news the other day is the story of an unusual molecular virologist with a lust for coffee. In addition to running a company to make environmental and medical diagnostic tests and, separately, a coffee and tea house, Robert C. Bohannon of Durham, N.C., decided to use his entrepreneurial spirit to invent CAFFEINE-LACED icing and cream cheese to put on doughnuts and bagels.

Bohannon is proprietor of Environostics, a company that develops and makes rapid drug tests, pregnancy tests, strep tests, HIV tests, and more. Among his other wide-ranging inventions are patented colloidal platinum and gold catalysts, as well as a vaccine against cocaine addiction that's in clinical trials.

As far as the coffee shop goes, "I love coffee," Bohannon tells Newscripts. And like Bohannon, the shop is atypical. "It is around 4,000 sq ft, has multiple conference rooms, wide-screen and projection TVs, satellite dishes, DVD players, wireless Internet, a stage and sound system for live entertainment, and a liquor license for serving fancy after-dinner coffee drinks and desserts," he notes.

The idea for the revved-up bakery goods came to Bohannon while eating a doughnut and drinking a glass of milk. He thought people might sometimes want a caffeine kick without the coffee.

Bohannon originally tried putting caffeine directly into dough or into a sugar glaze or cream cheese. But the extremely bitter caffeine made the doughnuts and bagels taste awful. So instead, he used his scientific expertise to whip up a method to microencapsulate caffeine within a vegetable-oil-based coating. The tasteless, micrometer-sized granules can be incorporated into dough, he says, but it's best to use the ingredient in icing or cream cheese. A typical serving would include about 100 mg of caffeine, equivalent to about two 5-oz cups of average drip-brewed coffee.

He would prefer to allow the customer to apply the high-octane icing to their doughnut or cream cheese to their bagel from a container or individual packet. But some potential distributors, including "a very large chain of convenience stores," are interested in prepackaged and individually wrapped goodies. "The marketing people will have to decide," Bohannon says.

Toasted sponges

Credit: istockphoto
Microwaved sponges get hot.
Credit: istockphoto
Microwaved sponges get hot.

Another story that news outlets picked up recently is how heating a KITCHEN SPONGE in a microwave oven is a good way to kill microorganisms. Leave it to human fallibility to make something so simple into something so complicated.

Environmental engineer Gabriel Bitton and his colleagues at the University of Florida reported in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health that two minutes of microwaving on full power kills 99% of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and the like on household sponges. The team soaked the sponges in wastewater first. (An old standard for cleaning sponges is to run them through a dishwasher, but this apparently doesn't kill all the bugs.)

Once stories appeared about the research, a lot of people gave it a try. Some reported their sponges caught fire, smoked and smelled up their houses, and trashed their microwaves and that the sponge was worthless afterward. It seems the natural and synthetic materials in the average sponge—you know the type: a colorful cellulose sponge that may have a nylon scouring pad on one side—were drying out and getting toasted.

The university subsequently issued an advisory that the sponge should first be completely wet, and microwaved for two minutes at most and that care should be taken when removing it from the microwave, "as it will be hot."

This week's column was written by Steve Ritter. Please send comments and suggestions to


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.