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What is cotton candy?

What is cotton candy?

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Cotton candy is one of those amazing foods that make no sense until you know the secret! There is no way to produce cotton candy without special equipment, but if you have the equipment, it is incredibly easy!

Cotton candy is a favorite treat for many children. It is sold in food stores, candy stores, parks, carnivals and game parks. cotton candies may be sold with added color or flavor.

What are the ingredients of cotton candy? is it made of cotton?

Knowing the actual ingredients of food products is important for all consumers. After all we need to have a healthy and balanced diet. Without knowing what we are eating we cannot have a healthy and balanced diet. By knowing what the cotton candy is we can decide when to eat it and how much of that is good for us.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.  

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

Find out about cotton candy. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the history, material and the process of making cotton candy. Keep track of where you got your information from.

To gather information about cotton candy you can start be searching the internet. Search for keywords such as “Cotton Candy”, “Cotton Candy material” and “Cotton candy equipment”. Following are some information that you may find.

Cotton candy is nothing but pure sugar. To make the sugar “cottony” you need four things:

Heat to melt the sugar and turn it into a liquid
A set of very small holes that the liquid sugar can flow through to form threads of sugar
A spinning head that slings the liquid sugar outward so it is forced through the holes
A bowl to catch the threads

You pour sugar into the center of the head.

The head contains the heater to melt the sugar and make it liquid. Then, by spinning the head, the cotton candy machine forces the liquid sugar out through tiny holes in the head. The instant the thin threads of sugar hit the air, they cool and re-solidify, so in the bowl of the machine a web of sugar threads develops.
The web is easily collected on a wooden stick or paper cone.

Cotton candy is a soft confection that is made from sugar that is heated and spun into slim threads that look like a mass of cotton. It was invented in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Wharton, candy makers from Nashville, Tennessee. They invented a device that heated sugar in a spinning bowl that had tiny holes in it. It formed a treat that they originally called “Fairy Floss.” As the bowl spun around, the caramelized sugar was forced through the tiny holes, making feathery candy that melts in the mouth.
They introduced it to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904) and sold huge amounts of it for 25 cents a box (that was lot of money back then). They sold about 68,655 boxes at that fair. The term “cotton candy” began to be used for this treat in about 1920. In the United Kingdom, it is called “candy floss.”


Question/ Purpose:

What is cotton candy? Is it pure sugar or does it contain some other cottony material too?

Also we want to experiment melting sugar and creating a cotton like fiber.

Identify Variables:

Not needed for this project. Also see the questions/Answers at the bottom of this page.


Cotton candy is only sugar and possibly some food coloring.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”

Caution: Sugar melts at 320º Fahrenheit (160º Celsius). This temperature is extremely hot and dangerous. It is much hotter than boiling water and is almost equivalent to hot oil. Please be careful if you want to perform the second experiment that requires melting sugar.

Experiment 1: Physical properties of cotton candy

Introduction: Properties such as color, solubility and melting temperature are known as physical properties. Physical properties can help us identify an unknown substance. In this experiment you will test to see if cotton candy can dissolve in water. You will also try to recover it again after dissolving it in water.


  1. Mix one cotton candy with a very small amount of water. Less than half a cup should be enough to dissolve a large amount of cotton candy. Stir it until it becomes clear.
  2. Let it dry or crystallize. This may take a few days, but if you transfer it to a dish that has a wide surface and place it in a warm place, it will crystallize faster.
  3. Observe and optionally taste the crystals. Are crystals similar to sugar crystals? Use a magnifying glass to compare them.

Experiment 2: Making sugar filaments

Introduction: Cotton candy is in the form of fibers of fine filaments. If cotton candy is made of sugar, we must be able to make sugar filaments. In this experiment you will try to make sugar filaments from sugar.

Caution: Adult help and supervision is required.


Melt some sugar in a small steel pan. When it is fully melted, remove it from the heat and use a spoon to stir and mix it well while it is getting cold. It will reach to a temperature that it will be viscose like honey. At that time you can lift your spoon slowly, you may see a strand of sugar attached to the spoon and you can stretch it. This strand is similar to a strand of cotton candy but much thicker. This experiment will show that even though sugar crystals are not flexible, when they are converted to thin fibers, then they will be flexible. That is why cotton candy fibers are flexible. Keep the samples of the fibers that you make in this experiment for your display.

Materials and Equipment:

  • Cotton candy
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Cup or other plastic container
  • Small steel pan for melting sugar
  • Electric heater

Results of Experiment (Observation):

If you mix water with cotton candy it instantly dissolves, and you can see that it’s not but a tablespoon or two of sugar filling the entire bag. It’s amazing how much you can charge for sugar, air and a little coloring!

Second experiment was much more useful and educational. When heat started, sugar changed color and became amber and then brown. It also had a special odor that we know it as burning sugar odor. When heated, it became fully liquid. While still hot we pored small amount of that on a cold metal tray that hardened fast and became a candy. We played with the rest and got some strands of sugar fiber.


You may optionally weight to see how much sugar is used for each cotton candy and how many cotton candy can be made using one pound sugar.

Summary of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Your conclusion is what you have learned in one and two sentences. For example you may state that “Cotton candy is just a different form of sugar.” or “Cotton candy is a form of sugar in which molecules have not formed crystals. We can also define it as kind of morphous sugar.”

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


Visit your local library and find books about sugar and candy. Start by looking up an encyclopedia for “cotton candy”, “sugar”, and diet. List your online and printed references in this section of your report.

The Dictionary of American Food and Drink

Publisher: Hearst Books; 1st ed edition (February 1, 1994)

ISBN: 0688101399

Author: John Mariani

Growing and processing sugar

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy Machines

How cotton candy is made?


Can I please have input and suggestions on these ideas?

We will be making cotton candy for our experiment.

Hypothesis- I believe cotton candy is nothing but pure sugar and possibly some food coloring.

Independent variable- heat

dependent variable- sugar

controlled variables- the parts of the cotton candy machine (heating unit, spinner, bowl, ect.)

Should the hypothesis make the connection between sugar and heat?

First science project. Please help!


Following example may make it clear.

Question: How does the heat (temperature) of cotton candy machine affect the rate of cotton candy production?

Hypothesis:More cotton candy can be produced at a higher temperature. My hypothesis is based on my information that sugar must be melted in order to form cotton style filaments and with more heat, more sugar can be melted.

Independent variable (also known as manipulated variable) is the heat or the temperature of cotton candy machine.

Dependent variable (also known as responding variable) is the rate of cotton candy production. (How much cotton candy per minute or per hour?)

Experiment: You must repeat the production of cotton candy a few times and each time set the machine at a different temperature and measure the production in certain period of time (minute, hour,..)


The above experiment requires a cotton candy machine with a temperature control knob. If you don’t have such a machine, consider other questions for your project.

Other questions:

Each of the following questions may be used for a science project related to cotton candy.

  • How does the type of sugar (white/brown) affect the production rate of cotton candy?
  • How does the temperature of melted sugar affect the maximum length of filaments that may be pulled?
  • Compare different cotton candy machines for their production rate?