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Home / Science projects / How Does Acid Keep Apples From Browning?
  • How Does Acid Keep Apples From Browning?

    How Does Acid Keep Apples From Browning?

    Apples and pears are great for snacks or to have as a side dish for dinner. But keeping them looking white and delicious after they have been sliced can be tricky. Try this experiment to see how chemistry can keep your apples and pears fresh even after they have been sliced.

    What You Need:

    • An apple or pear
    • Sharp knife
    • Lemon juice
    • Clock
    • Adult help

    What You Do:

    1. With adult help, cut the apple in half from top to bottom.
    2. On one apple half, lightly coat the white part of the apple with lemon juice. Leave the other half uncoated. (The uncoated half is your 'control' sample and lets you see what normally happens to a cut open apple.)
    3. Observe the color of both apple halves, then place them white-part-up on a counter or tabletop.
    4. Observe the apples again after 30 minutes. Notice any color changes and/or differences in appearance.
    5. Look at the apples again periodically throughout the day. What do you find?

    What Happened:

    When an apple is cut open, an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase is released from the cells of the apple and reacts with the oxygen in the air. This reaction causes the fruit to turn brown, similar to rust forming on metal. Almost all plants contain polyphenol oxidase, and it is believed plants use this enzyme as part of a defense mechanism. When a plant is damaged, the browning of the affected area is thought to discourage animals and insects from eating the plant any further. It also might help the plant heal because the browning creates an antibacterial effect, preventing germs from destroying the plant even more.

    Lemon juice helps keep the apple from browning, because it is full of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and it has a low (acidic) pH level. Ascorbic acid works because oxygen will react with it before it will react with the polyphenol oxidase. However, once the ascorbic acid gets used up, the oxygen will start reacting with the enzyme and browning will occur. Lemon juice's low pH level also helps prevent browning. Polyphenol oxidase works best when the pH level is between 5.0 and 7.0. However, below a pH level of 3.0, the enzyme becomes inactivated. The pH of lemon juice is in the 2.0 range, making it very effective against browning.

    Besides lemon juice, lime juice and cranberry juice also have a pH below 3.0. Concord grape juice and grapefruit juice also have a low pH (not quite as low as the others), but will help delay the browning process. You may want to try several of these juices and find a tasty to way to serve sliced apples and pears in the process!

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By: samantha villamayor
Date: Aug 03, 2015

how much acid?

By: Angel sophia
Date: Jun 12, 2015

Am ok with the answer,this is great

By: Jessica Lollike
Date: May 28, 2015

great!! now i’m sure i’ll get a good grade for my science project :)

By: Sam Ghareeba
Date: May 10, 2015

Using this for my yr ten science project experiment

By: Gabby Obrein
Date: May 10, 2015

this is a great website

By: Dakella lewis
Date: Apr 28, 2015

Thanks now I know what I am doing for my science project

By: Jaimie
Date: Apr 15, 2015

Thanks! I am a fifth grader. I needed to know the answer for my science project.

By: Geralda W.
Date: Mar 06, 2015

Omg thanks it really works!!! gonna use this for sons science fair experiment!!!

Date: Feb 11, 2015

THank you very much. u just gave me an idea for my science exh.

By: Rachel
Date: Dec 28, 2014

Great information and a cool way to learn! Aside from the fact that it’s delicious, I’ve always used lemon juice to stop my apple slices from browning but never understood why. Thanks!