Fun With Spaghetti

Envision what would happen to a pot of spaghetti if you left it soaking in water at room temperature for a couple of hours...

How about if you left it in boiling water for fifteen minutes?

Here's a hint: Mass Transfer is the tendency of a component in a mixture to travel from a region of high concentration into an area of low concentration.

Applying this to spaghetti. If the mixture is water and spaghetti, the water will want to move into the spaghetti where the concentration is lower.

If the pasta were left in water at room temperature long enough, it seems the water would diffuse into it until there were equal numbers of water molecules inside and outside the pasta.

So this brings us back to our original question...

What would happen to a pot of spaghetti left soaking in water at room temp for two hours?

Well, my friend Neel once started making spaghetti and was soon after distracted by a phone call for two hours. He never turned on the stove so the water remained at room temperature. When Neel returned to the kitchen, he was amazed to find his pasta in a big lumpy pasty mess.

Obviously mass transfer was to blame!!

"Why," you ask, "doesn't this happen to me when I make pasta?" Well, for one, you usually have enough presence of mind to turn on the heat (sorry Neel!)

And that makes ALL the difference!!

Return to Mass Transfer

[Introduction | Kinetics | Heat Transfer | Mass Transfer | Bibliography]

This project was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and is advised by Dr. Masel and Dr. Blowers at the University of Illinois.