I want to make a partially working model of the digestive system that could digest complex carbohydrates. My ultimate goal is to be able to cut up some bread, put it into the model, operate it, and eventually see some effect equivelent to glucose being used in a muscle. I obviously have a very limited buget. How could I simulate glucose being burned in some way that has a visible effect?

Edit: I'm specifically looking for some way glucose can be used to achieve some visible effect that makes sense as a metaphor for combustion, without dangerous/expensive chemicals.

  • $\begingroup$ why don't you burn it? the combustion will give off hot gas you can use to drive a piston. just a thought. like the handle. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 25, 2012 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ Or put it in a balloon and watch the balloon inflate as the bread is converted to co2 by microbes $\endgroup$ May 26, 2012 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ But, how would you burn dissolved glucose? $\endgroup$ May 26, 2012 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ You need to define "burn". In this context, it sounds like a synonym for "oxidize" $\endgroup$ May 27, 2012 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


You could combine the demonstration that glucose can be burned with the principle of catalysis: a sugar cube won't burn by itself if you hold a match at it. Using a bit of MnO2 or even simple ash on the cube will make it inflammable through catalysis: the MnO2 acts as catalysator (is not used up).

MnO2 (manganese(IV) oxide), a dark powder, is a safe chemical that only reacts with acids, and is insoluble in water.

  • $\begingroup$ cool. does this actually work? And is it within the confines of a not expensive or dangerous chemical? I know little about MnO2 other than what I've just learned from Google! $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ This, however, is probably not what the OP wants, I for certain don't have MnO2 and fire in my digestive system or in my muscles in order to digest sugar... $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Jul 10, 2012 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ I have added a bit about MnO2. @nico: but the sugar won't be oxidized without catalysts, i.e. enzymes, and this principle is what the demo is about. $\endgroup$
    – R Stephan
    Jul 11, 2012 at 8:21

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