The Chemistry of Porridge

Gong Xi Fa Cai, readers! First of all, here’s a lovely infographic (as always) from Compound Interest!


CNY is almost over, but due to the binge eating of ‘heaty’ foods (hmm, we really should have some medical articles regarding the Chinese ‘heaty’ phenomenon), quite a number of people have sore throats, upset tummies, etc. Porridge becomes a staple for the duration! Now, making porridge is pretty easy. Add more water, heat, stir, heat stir, season, heat, stir. The more care you’ve put into the cooking, the better the texture and taste (as with most cooking). But it can be challenging to make it Porridge Perfect. So how can you make it better? Science, of course!

Oats are around 40-60% starch, which is a carbohydrate which forms granules made up of amylose and amylopectin. These are long molecules made up of glucose units. Amylose chains are linear, and tightly packed, whereas amylopectin is highly branched. This branching makes it more soluble than amylose.

So, when we heat our porridge, the starch granules absorb water, disrupting the hydrogen bonds between their chemical components. This causes the granules to swell. Over time, this swelling of granules causes the porridge to thicken. This process is starch gelatinisation.

As gelatinisation proceeds, the porridge gets thicker and thicker. This thickening is known as ‘pasting’. Now, here is where it becomes crucial for the cook. STIR the porridge! Do you want your porridge clumpy and lumpy (porridge cake facepalm), or do you want it finely distributed and seasoned evenly throughout?

Now, once the temperature gets high enough, the porridge thickness reaches its peak. Heating further only breaks down (slowly) the starch and lowers the thickness of the porridge. This is because the amylose starts leaking out of the starch granules.

So how do we prevent making poor porridge?

  1. Heat the porridge to high enough temperatures to gelatinise
  2. Stir the porridge at intervals
  3. Stop heating when it goes over around 95 degrees Celcius

Seasoning, adding other ingredients, garnishing, plating; all that adds value to the meal, but the gist of making good porridge is the balance between gelatinisation & pasting.

I personally use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice to make porridge. Sometimes, I even add a bit of Jasmine tea to disrupt the intermolecular forces further ^_^

Many say that porridge keeps you feeling fuller for longer after breakfast… sorry not in my case as someone with an OMEGA level Metabolic Rate. I feel weak in about 1-2 hours and I will need more ‘solid’ foods to satiate my hunger. But then again… if the porridge is ‘porridge cake’, I’d probably feel fuller for longer, BUT, it would be poor porridge!


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Doodly Organic Reaction Mechanisms

It’s nearing the end of 2018, and I’ve just purchased my own copy of Doodly for PC & Mac. I have plenty of other ways to make animations, but Doodly provides an interesting method! It took about 25 minutes to generate this video (with help from my good old Adobe Photoshop CS3 for some clipart) and it’s not a finished product, but I like it!

I shall be embarking on a journey in 2019, making more of these Doodly videos to make some more content in Chemistry A-Level much more interesting and accessible to my students. Please email us if you have requests or feedback! Thank you! And have a Merry Christmas!

I don’t have a premium account here so I apologize but I’m going to have to send you to Facebook to view my video!

Here’s a preview picture:

Preview - Benzene Mechanism

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Soaps vs Body Wash

Ever since studying in the UK, I’ve long debated the above, but I’ve always settled on Body Wash simply because I didn’t like the process of making soap (which I found pretty disgusting). I also preferred the ‘feel’ of Body Wash as well. Brands like pH 5.5 gave the Chemist in me raised eyebrows, and during my A-levels, I did some light research on this.

Human skin is essentially slightly acidic most of the time (due to sweat which is acidic, and other reasons). Thus, by using soaps which are alkaline, it helps counteract this. However, due to the alkaline nature of the soap, our skin feels dry. Actually, more like, oil-free.

So, why does the brand hint that the pH is 5.5? Body washes have a pH that is closer to the pH of skin. This might also be gentler on the skin, and more ‘natural’.

CI - Soaps vs Body Wash.jpgThe above infographic, taken from my favorite website for infographics Compound Interest, summarizes well the basic properties of soaps and body wash that make them effective for their role. More information is required for a proper debate to be conclusive, but there is also the economic factor that needs to be mentioned.

So what DO you use at home? Shower gel? Soap? Even shampoo vs conditioner would be a good topic for a debate.

Personally, I’m sticking to Shower Gel =D


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Progress in Chemistry 2018

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank & Richard Henderson for their work in cryo-electron microscopy. Their work in the past has definitely revolutionized how we see molecules and was a great step forward in Biochemistry.

The concept of ‘ dynamic equilibrium’ alone has taught us that even when a reaction has ‘stopped’, reactions are still occurring. It’s the net change that is zero, which leads to our perception that the reaction has ‘stopped’. Knowing this, one can see why we would need to slow down molecules drastically in order to properly visualize them.

By slowing the molecules down drastically, for instance, with the Zika virus, proper rendering and visualization can be done more accurately. With that information, researchers could analyze the molecules (receptor sites, active sites, etc) and provide a more accurate target for pharmaceuticals.

People always misuse the quote “A picture is worth a thousand words” but in reality, it’s much more important to know WHICH WORDS they actually are. With the progress in the area of cryo-EM, a new era of Biochemistry began.

Now, look to yourselves, and ask, “What was my progress during the holidays in December 2017?” It is easily possible for one to learn and develop one’s self much more during a month of holidays, than in an entire year at school. It’s the time that we spend by ourselves (minus procrastination) that leads to eventual development and success. Let’s take a great and effective first step into 2018!


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Chemistry of “D” Presentations 2017

24th July 2017

It was that time of the year again, where students presented their findings from their voluntary research endeavors. Last year, it was the Chemistry of “C”, which included some very interesting presentations like The Chemistry of Cough Syrup, The Chemistry of Coffee ❤ & The Chemistry of Chocolate! ❤ ❤ ❤

These were the topics for this year:

Chemistry Presentation 2017

Learning content for examinations is crucial, but I believe that learning how to learn effectively is much more vital! Cramming for exams is temporary… but self-motivated research & commitment to learning can last a lifetime. Furthermore, if the content can be related to real life, it becomes even more embedded into ones’ memories!

Here are some photos from the event. Click on the photo below to view the photos from Dropbox!

Photo Jul 24, 10 23 18 AM


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Happy Holidays!

Last day of Term 1, and here’s what we’ve done so far:Chem Topic 1 syllabus

Now, the above should only exist a a checklist. The questions from Jim Clark listed in your holiday homework & reading lists should help consolidate your proficiency in Topic 1 – Atoms, Molecules & Stoichiometry.

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so please do! However, spend some time and rack up some hours in your 100 Hour Revision Cards, and look up the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Hopefully, we can find more information as to how it can be done in Brunei. Speak to people at Careers Section, and find out if there are any available internships, or job placements to more productively spend your holidays. Pick up a new skill, learn a new language, hone your sports skills, become more valuable as a person than you were before the holidays!

Need any help? You know who to contact =)

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Flame ON!

With the arrival of our new batch of L6, here’s hoping they all come in with a fiery desire to excel in Chemistry! Remember the MOTTO of our Chemistry Department!

1% Exams, 99% Exploration!

There is no point doing well in exams… if you haven’t really learnt anything beyond plain memorization. Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy!


How far up the pyramid are you in terms of learning? One should always aim all the way up to Analysis at A-Level… and then constantly be attempting Synthesis & Evaluation for all steps along the way.

Now let’s get right into it. Here are some Flame Test Colours!


One of the oldest methods of identifying traces of metal ions, all that has to be done, is to burn the sample with a flame and observe the color given off. Now, this method of analysis is simple and quick. However, if the sample isn’t pure, what you will observe would be a mixture of colors.

Look forward to learning about electronic configuration, energy levels & theory of color for transition metal complexes in aqueous solution to find out more about why a given ion would give off a certain color!

Until the next post, work hard! 100 Hours Revision Cards can be downloaded here.

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The Chemistry of Roses

A day after the anticipated, or in some cases, dreaded Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to look up an infographic for the Chemistry of Roses. Going at $1.50 usually, they were, as expected, marked up to $3 for a single rose, and with a few floral arrangements that are individually cheap per piece, you could end up with corsages that costed $40 and above!

Now what is it actually about roses that entices people so much? Is it the color? The aroma? Tradition? Some conspiracy made up by florists in ages past to boost their economy for a few days around the 14th of February?

Nonetheless, let’s take a deeper look at the Chemistry. (from Compound Interest)


Red may be the traditional color for roses during Valentine’s Day, but there are various other shades that may be desirable. Carothenoids and anthocyanins are responsible for the color of the petals. Now, there are over 75 different carothenoids across 40 different yellow rose petals alone! However, for red roses, the anthocyanins are surprisingly not as diverse, and hence… more unique in a fashion.

Strange to say, there are colorless compounds that exist in rose petals, that can interact with common colored compounds such as cyanin and pelargonin to influence the shade that we actually see via a phenomenon called ‘copigmentation’.

Color may attract attention, but what about the aroma? Compounds such as (-)-cis-rose oxide (quite a generic name to be honest), rose ketones e.g. beta damascenone and terpene compounds e.g. geraniol, nerol, citronellol, and farnesol may also contribute to the scent. What’s really interesting is that these compounds crop up in other flowers as well, but it takes an expert nose to be able to tell the difference without the gift of sight.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable (and not-so-expensive) Valentine’s Day!

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Another new year in Chemistry!

2016 was a really exciting year for Chemistry indeed! With the latest Nobel Prize in Chemistry having such interesting content, and so many new discoveries, here’s to 2017 being an even more successful year!

PTES is currently undergoing some new Professional Development for staff and Study Skills for students. At the moment, Dr. Makarimi Kassim has already shown the staff how Mindmaps are generated, and have helped the students begin to use them in their studies. The Chemistry students have made some Mindmaps from the topic: Organic Chemistry – Carbonyl Compounds. Here are some of the lovely products from our students:

So which of the Mindmaps above suits your preference? Which ones would truly aid you in more efficient revision?

Personally, I prefer infographics! As usual, our go-to source of Weekly Infographics is Compound Interest. Here’s one that tries to summarize the reasons for why some bodily fluids are coloured as they are.

Do you want to know more about why a certain fluid from any source has a certain colour? Glowsticks maybe? Drop us an email at and we may make that the subject of our next post! Until then, have a great week!

The Machine – Admin 0014

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Everyday Chemicals: Piperine


This infographic was taken directly from Compound Interest and I have no ownership nor do I claim to have made this myself =) As I’ve told my Lower Sixth students, it is very important not just to Know and to Understand what we learn in class, but even more important to Apply it to real life situations. Chemistry has Chemicals in abundance! We should be able to know what each chemical does… whether it has one function, multiple functions and ESPECIALLY if they cause side effects. That is among the crucial roles of a Research Chemist.

Piperine is a nitrogenous organic compound of plant origin that has pronounced physiological action on humans. Other alkaloid compounds, as they are called, include morphine, quinine (drugs) and atropine (poison). Now one may view the name of the compound itself with the suffix -ine to denote an amine, which would be technically correct. However, the full name of this compound is 1-[5-(1,3-Benzodioxol-5-yl)-1-oxo-2,4-pentadienyl]piperidine. What a mouthful! You have to understand that every compound with a shockingly short name hides a possibly incredibly long IUPAC name.

Piperine is basically an essential component of black pepper. The ‘hot’ taste is due to piperine (similar to capsaicin – found in chilli peppers). According to the infographic above, piperine causes a spicy taste that is only 1% of that from capsaicin. It is also contained in various homeopathic remedies and even in Chinese medicine. Now there is a chemical that we often use, but never really cared about why or how it works. I wouldn’t say this is Molecule of the Month material, but if anyone has a molecule to suggest, please email me at

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