Unboil a boiled egg, say what??
Given my interests for new innovations in the field of science, I have a nasty habit of poking around people and searching the internet for new stuff to write about. Recently, I was just surfing the internet when I read a heading that instantly caught my eye.
What if I told you..“Scientists found a new way to unboil a boiled egg”! Exactly my reaction- I read it, and then I read the heading again, because I just couldn’t believe my eyes. This was like, falsifying all the chemistry I had learnt back in junior school, where they taught us about physical and chemical processes; and I clearly remember boling an egg was a chemical irreversible process. After reading this article the ground had shifted from beneath my feet. What’s next? Unburning a burnt matchstick? Innovations like these make me wonder, are scientists actually so talented and innovative or are they just so idle that they wake up in the morning and think, “Oh! A new morning, let’s just try hanging upside down from the ceiling today and make the blood flow to the feet instead of the brain!; or maybe let’s just have an omelette of an unboil(ed) boiled egg today!”. Whatever the case is this research is going to be a breakthrough in the field of medical sciences, specially for treatment of cancer.
(Un)boil the recipe!
So, you must’ve heard doctors saying how good it is to have eggs, and how much proteins they have in them, and all the beautiful things in the world, to convince you to have eggs even when you don’t like them. Well these proteins are what fold up to form aggregates when an egg is boiled; recovery of these proteins is inefficient and challenging for large-scale industrial processes.
Step 1: One way to separate these perfectly folded protein molecules, from the aggregates, are to rotate the solution at very high rotational speeds.The solution starts to form micrometer-thick, thin fluid films, which flow with the same speed and direction as the wall of the glass tube; this generates a velocity gradient within the thin fluid film, which introduces shear stress into the solution.
In layman terms: It’s like putting a slimy ball in a glass and rotating the glass with high rotational speeds; such that the slimy ball starts to rotate with the speed of the glass inside it, and it starts separates into the contents of the slime.
Step 2: Now, this shear helps dissemble the aggregates. One of the basic concepts of science is, when bonds are formed or when molecules join together, transfer of energy takes place- in the form of gain or loss of heat energy. Now, to recover folded protein molecules from these aggregates we require energy which is facilitated by the high rotational speeds. The “soft” energy in the thin film of solution helps to recover the folded protein molecules, without actual heating of the solution.
In layman terms: Again relating to the ball of the slime in the rotating glass- in normal conditions, it would require heat or some kind of energy to separate the contents of this slimy ball, which in this case is provided by the high rotational speeds.
Next step in the recipe..
This research could help in the field of cancer treatment and specifically cells which aggregate to form the tumours.
Let’s just hope that we have machines that could unboil boiled eggs; maybe we could just boil a few eggs when needed, stuff them inside bags- while travelling- and unboil them when we reach the destination. This way we don’t have to worry about the eggs breaking maybe; It’s a win-win situation! Check it out!
– By Shreya Gupta