How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 1004

Does food coloring change the color of food?
Food coloring is a solution of dye molecules—molecules that absorb light of certain wavelengths extremely efficiently. When a particle of light—a photon—of the right wavelength encounters one of these dye molecules, an electron in the molecule uses the photon's energy to shift from one quantum level to another. The photon vanishes and the molecule is placed in an electronically excited state. The dye molecule's electron quickly returns to its original quantum level by releasing this extra energy as thermal energy within the molecule and its surroundings. Overall, the photon has vanished and the dye has become warmer. When you add these dye molecules to food, the dye gives the food a color by preventing that food from transmitting or reflecting certain colors of light. The dye simply absorbs those colors.

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