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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Chlorophyll cake

by Brianna Barbu
July 11, 2022


A cake with pink fluorescent frosting sitting on a green fluorescent plate, both glowing against a dark background.
Credit: Rebecca Thompson
A cake sitting on a glass platter.
Credit: Rebecca Thompson

A lot of people enjoy baking projects on the weekends. But Becky Thompson, who heads up education and public engagement at Fermilab, took things one step further by making a glowing cake that doubled as a science experiment. Thompson’s culinary adventure started when she saw a collection of uranium glass for sale on Facebook. “I drove an absurd distance to get a cake plate and some glasses,” she said in an email. Once she had her haul of glowing glassware, Thompson’s next move was to find some fluorescent food to go with it. A Google search revealed that the chlorophyll in leafy greens has red fluorescence. So Thompson bought a bunch of kale and learned how to extract chlorophyll from the leaves. Then she added the chlorophyll to a can of store-bought cake frosting and frosted a cake with it. Finally, she took a photo of the cake and plate under ultraviolet light. Though the fluorescing frosting ended up looking more fuchsia than red, Thompson said it was “a really fun picture to set up and a fun thing to do on a random Sunday.”

Credit: Rebecca Thompson.

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