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Mystery of Candle Wax

  1. Apr 4, 2008 #1
    I was having a glass of wine over candlelight and I noticed that the liquid wax was completely transparent but turned opaque when when the wax solidified. Why does this happen? Clearly, when the molecules reorganize during the freezing phase transition they begin to interact with the light.

    I know this can also happen with water but I not sure it's for the same reason, because the most organized ice is clear. Only when the crystalline structure is disturbed (the ice is fractured, aerated, etc.) does the solid water become opaque. So it seems that the transparent liquid to opaque solid transition in water is due to repeated diffraction and scattering, leading to reflection. Is this the same reason it happens in wax? If so, what molecular changes bring this about?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2008 #2
    I just froze some cooking oil (sesame seed) and found the same phenomenon occurred which leads me to think it has something to do with the aliphatic chains in wax and lipids. Any thoughts how a substance could be either transparent of opaque depending on the organization of carbon chains?

    All thoughts and speculations welcome
  4. Apr 5, 2008 #3
    I don't have an answer for you, but am posting to say that freezing the cooking oil was an inspired idea and the mark of a scientist!
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