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LVC Chemistry Researchers Explain Why Rudolph Needs His Carrots
12.19.13 |
While scientists use powerful satellites to monitor the activities at Santa’s workshop, Dr. Timothy Peelen, an associate professor of chemistry at LVC, and undergraduate student Christopher Cringle have worked to identify the chemical basis for Rudolph's red nose.

The researchers postulate that a carrot-rich diet is critical for Rudolph's unusual light. They've succeeded in isolating a small molecule that is present in minute quantities in carrot extracts. They call this molecule carrotene, and have showed that this molecule glows a bright red color when combined with gold(III) chloride sulfide (ClAuS).

Extensive studies have shown that the red luminescence of carotene persists for 5-10 minutes before the red color fades. The addition of more carrotene reinitiates luminescence, so the researchers conclude that it is imperative that each family leaves some carrots for the reindeer to ensure a safe journey for Santa Claus. The luminescence reaction also shows a remarkable temperature dependence; at low temperature the reaction is slower and the red glow persists for longer than at higher temperatures.

"It is very fortunate that Christmas is in December," explains Peelen. "If Santa was to go out on a warm summer evening, it is likely that Rudolph's nose would go out quite frequently."

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