Science of maple syrup

March 15, 2012
Hello everyone,
I live in Vermont and this time of year when the weather is warm in the sun, and cold at night we make maple syrup. I did this last year for the first time, and I had a great time realizing the interesting mechanics of  how it is done. First of course you need maple trees, Lots O maple trees!  We drill a hole into the tree trunk, about 4-5 feet off the ground, the hole is 7/16th and about 1.5 inches deep, at a slight upward angle. Then we install a tap, which is a hollow metal spike with a hook attached. Then hang a bucket with a lid on the hook and wait!
Once we have about 400 gallons of raw sap, we can make about 10 gallons of syrup. The material in the tree, which is basically glucose, is a raw sugar. Like most raw sugars, this can be processed into a refined sweet product. Beets, cane, corn, and many other plants produce sweet sugars. Some plants do not yield sweet products, and it depends on the biology of the plant.
Maple trees extract a vast amount of water from the soil in spring to fuel the leaf growth process. When these trees do this, we call it a run. A tap can produce 2.5 gallons in a good day. That is a lot of sap moving up into the tree, and most of this material is water. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, so the ratio is low for the sugars. Most of the people around here determine sugar content with specific gravity hydrometer tests. In a lab we could use measured amounts and then systematically heat the material. We could also burn the material for caloric tests. But we don't care about that right now.
The way it is processed is fun, The sap is gathered into tanks. An "arch" is used for water removal, we use a small arch and it is fired with wood. that means we put wood into a fire all day while boiling 100's of gallons of water out of the sap.
As the process moves on, the arch becomes a thermal hydraulic system. Cool thin sap enters on the far side of a "back pan" and this pan cooks out a lot of water fast, as it enters it pushes warmer sap forward, and this becomes heavier, and maybe a bit hotter. Later after flowing through a maze of channels designed to boil the material fast, it enters a "front pan" where it boils further. Here the sap is hotter, and flowing from a "cooler" side to the side of the arch we "draw" out syrup. While this cooking material travels through a maze of compartments, a very hot fire is under this "pan" the sap is forming into syrup, it becomes heavier, thicker and also sweeter. when the water is boiled out the specific gravity changes, and also the temperatures. Water boils at 212 degrees, a "sugar" thermometer starts at 212, and I can draw syrup at a reading of 10 or 222 degrees F.
The sap moves around and thickens, it will collect in the last compartment, as cooler sap keeps flowing into the other side. At the last compartment the sap is almost cooked into syrup, and here is where close attention is drawn. Like any sugar, maple syrup will cook further very quickly into a fuel. Sugar fires are horrible, the material is sticky and rapidly rises in temperatures and also burns fast, this can quickly destroy the material and also the equipment. When this sap is in the last compartment and more sap is travelling towards it, the material cooks out more water. It takes a while for enough of this to move into the last compartment and shed water out to thicken it. I use thermometer readings to judge if it is ready, and check it with a hydrometer, I have almost always been rewarded by the thermometer. As water leaves this material it gets hotter, and at a specific temperature it is syrup, If it gets hotter still it becomes candy, then a fire.
Heating any sugar is dangerous, and burns are the number one concern. It is fun to use these pieces of equipment and realize the physics behind the operation. I am happy to have the opertunity to do this, because I love to eat sweets!
Take care!
 

Various new stuff

March 15, 2012
Hello Everyone.
I wanted to write a little about some new stuff ! I have new Silver in native crystalline state. I have new Tungsten evaporation wires and plan to "light on up" to see it glowing. I have a new pile of Tantalum foil and sheet scraps over 1 pound!  A recent bid on Cesium nitrate went well, and so did an offer for a vintage Argon bottle made of glass from Airco. I have been browsing for deals and some have been popping up, I feel asleep at the keyboard on a very nice Radium kit fo...
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IodineVapor and Selenium samples

March 10, 2012
Hello everyone.
I just uploaded new photos of the long awaited Iodine experiment. I have taken 2 grams of pure Iodine crystals and vaporized them in a 11000ml flask with a blowtorch. the result was a beautiful violet gas, and some bonus crystalline structures on the nipple of the vent piece.
I have some new Selenium in red allotrope powder form, I still have not received a packet with the elusive red Selenium crystals, but I have found a new chemist friend who works with exotic compounds, you c...
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Heavy elements

March 6, 2012
Hello everyone,
I wanted to let everyone know I am packing up my equipment and samples until I move in to my new place. I will have a nicer place for my lab!
So I wanted to respond back for Radium, sorry I didn't follow up right away. Radium is one of the unstable elements, extracted from Uranium ore. Radium is scarce, and seven tons of Uranium ore will produce 1 gram of the metal. Radium in metal form is a white alkaline earth metal. related to Calcium, strontium and Barium. Radium is more th...
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Great new crystals.

February 29, 2012
Hello everyone.
I just uploaded new pictures of some great crystal metal samples. I made a trade and received Vanadium crystals, Osmium Crystals, Germanium crystals, Chromium and Selenium crystals, and finally some fluffy white Silver crystals. The Crystals were grown with gas vapor deposition methods, and from a fellow element collector in Italy. he crystals are ultra pure samples, and display natural behaviors of each element.  Check them out  on the pages!
Take care!

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Unstable heavy elements

February 29, 2012

Hello everyone!
Recently I was asked about collecting radioactive and other hazardous elements. I have some small samples of the elements in question. Part of the question was "is it possible to obtain a radio sample?" the other part of the question is about handling and storage, and which types of samples are "more dangerous".

first lets talk about  the most well known radio-element Uranium, getting a legitimate sample is as easy as going to an antique shop. Uranium can be found in Vaseline g...


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Fun with magnets

February 27, 2012
Hello everyone!

I was hanging around the house today with my 4.5 year old son, and we were playing with some magnets. My son loves to play with magnets, and he is quite good at explaining what is happening for his age. I gave him a 3/8" NIB magnet, (Neodymium-Iron-Boron)  which is quite powerful, and a jar with magnetite and water. When Magnetite is in water a strong magnet can create some fascinating magnetic field structures. when more than one magnet is employed it can get really fun. My so...

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New photos and progress

February 25, 2012
Hello everyone!.
I have managed to get the new photos of ore samples loaded up, new mineral samples, and new pure element samples. I used various Uranium and Thorium ore samples to depict heavy rare elements such as Actinium, Astatine, Protactinium, and Radon. I also loaded some new minerals Boron, Vanadium, Calcium, Mercury.
New elements include Uranium, Thorium, and Tantalum!!!
I plan on buying a new manual focus camera and someday will retake photos of all the elements samples of the collect...
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New compounds

February 22, 2012
Hello everyone!

After a long weekend with limited Internet, I am excited to get back to the elements for dorks web site!
I have some new additions posted. New Americium photos.  New Polonium Uranium, Thorium, Technetium, and Actinium pictures. I have found a nice set of Tantalum crucibles finally and I am soon planing to load those pictures as well. 
 
The new compounds I have are Uranium Hydrates. they are fantastic samples in gram or less size. sealed and labeled from a reliable dealer on EBay....

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Coal and Carbon

February 14, 2012
Hello everyone!

Today I uploaded a few new element pictures of rocks and minerals. I got my hands on a really fascinating coal sample called peacock coal. the rock has a interesting texture and colors. Coal is a sedimentary rock of fixed carbon from long dead bio material like peat. Back in the day plant life grew for millions of years in fair climates. Carbon in the atmosphere fueled massive growth of these plants, which fixed tons Carbon. Carbon is fixed when it is trapped in the organic mat...
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About Me


Hi! I'm Sammy, This is my blog for my site, The Elements for Dorks. I am here to show photos my own element collection, and maybe share some useful information. I am happy to build the Free element photo gallery and information site. I have a passion for certain hobbies, I like High Voltage, and build Tesla coils, Marx generators, Van De Graff, Whimehurst, Voltage multipliers, and other fun stuff, I had my first microscope at 11, and my first chemistry set at 12. other than the elements, I collect empire coinage, marbles, rocks tattoos and whatever weird stuff comes along. I have a Industrial science degree in Marine Propulsion Technology. I enjoy tinkering so working with engines, wires, and fiberglass is just fun for me. I have worked as a boat electrician, and fuel and ignition tech on OMC outboards (Johnson and Evinrude) at a warranty service shop. I also have worked as an activities director in a high acuity convalescence facility in Florida. A few fun things I have done is create a couple educational puzzles, and also I enjoy woodworking and painting. Thanks for stopping by!

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