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Science on Tap Question

So, just what do M&Ms and the Lab have in common?
June 27, 2019
Science on Tap Question

Science on Tap Question

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Currently, it takes four hours to coat an M&M with its colored, candy shell!

More than one might think. They both began in the early 1940’s and they both rely heavily on materials science technology to accomplish their missions. They’re also both dedicated to continuous improvement, no matter how small the degree. It’s this dedication that brought together Mars, Inc. and the Lab’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation.

 For Mars, Inc., the maker of M&M candies, the discovery of a more efficient process to coat their delicious chocolate with their trademark candy shell could mean huge savings in production costs. Currently, it takes four hours to coat an M&M with its colored, candy shell! The chocolate pieces, called “pips,” go through forty-four cycles of tumbling in a vat with about two million other pips, getting sprayed with sugar-syrup, and then blown with hot air. And if each stage isn’t just right, the sugary candy shell won’t crystallize just right, which could lead to cracks in the shell, rancid candy, and, of course, melting in your hand. So what Mars needed was a way to learn more about the crystallization process and how to manipulate it in their factories to shorten the coating process. 

For the Lab, the collaboration offered researchers at the Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation an opportunity to study sucrose crystallization. No, sugar isn’t a component of many experiments at Los Alamos, but computer modeling of the sucrose-crystallization process, of sugar crystals’ structural and behavioral characteristics, can provide significant data that can be applied to research of other, more mission-focused materials. 

The partnership between Mars, Inc. and the Lab is a fun example of how synergy between the private sector and researchers at Los Alamos can benefit both. 

For more information on materials science research at the Lab, please visit the Lab’s Materials Science and Technology webpage.