Science Fair Project - What Makes Popcorn Pop

Bowl of popcorn
Bowl of popcorn | Source

What Is Popcorn - How is Popcorn Different from "Corn"

Popcorn is actually very much a corn, like the field corn that is grown in many areas of the United States. It is grown in much the same way, and harvested in a couple of ways. The traditional farmer's combine can do the job, which not only picks the ears of corn off the stalk, but shells the corn off the cob at the same time. The kernels are then put in a dryer so they can be reduced to the optimum moisture level, much as field corn is dried.

Alternatively, it can be picked with the ear intact and kept for drying for several months (up to a year), and then shelled and sorted for an adequate size kernel for popping.

Popcorn differs from normal field corn in that it has a smaller kernel, and the shell forms a tight seal around the soft starchy center. Generally the kernels of field corn are much larger than those of popcorn.

Slow Motion Kernel Popping

Questions Answered on Popping Pop Corn

How Does Popcorn Pop?

The soft starchy middle of popcorn kernels have been dried to achieve the proper moisture levels for popping. The kernel is gradually heated for popping in a variety of ways. It can be heated directly with hot air in a hot air popper, or in a bed of heated oil or fat (this is the common approach used at the movie theaters, for example). This also flavors the final popcorn product as well.

Microwave popcorn heats in a slightly different manner as a microwave heats not only the oil, but the moisture in the popcorn kernel directly. For this reason microwave popcorn tends to pop more completely (fewer unpopped kernels) and the volume of the popcorn tends to be slightly larger as well. You can see more about the design of microwave popcorn in this early patent filing. If the subject fascinates you, you may even want to try a science experiment of the statistics of popcorn popping. Enjoy your popcorn!

Popcorn Poll

How Does Your Family Pop Popcorn?

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Comments 16 comments

steinc48 10 months ago

If you don't want to purchase popcorn seed, you can just plant the popcorn you buy at the store for popping. True, it may be a hybrid, but you will still be please with the outcome. Then every growing season, just save kernels from the most choice ears.

justin bieber lover 6 years ago

omg i now have a new respect 4 popcorn

chelsea smile 6 years ago

popcorn sounds good right now:)lol

jj 6 years ago

really helped me w/ my report

Shyanne 6 years ago

i thought that this was very useful information. i am using it for my science-fair research cards.

unknown 6 years ago

thnx so much this helped me for my science project for the research paper

6 years ago

Thnx helped me with science Fair Project

ali ardhi 6 years ago

it is a very good website it helped me with my science fair projet

Amanda 7 years ago

For my science project i did : Which brand of popcorn pops the fastest? This really helped me out & the brand was Orville Redenville btwwwwwwwwwww :]

mary kate 7 years ago


im also doing a science proj!!

this totally helps for my research paper!


sadie  7 years ago

lol me to i am doing a science project on seeing if u can get popcorn n cellphone n pop it =]

Kipolean 7 years ago

This should be able to help me on my science fair project! THANKS AGAIN!!!!

dakota 7 years ago

it is so cool

ali 7 years ago

this is great website! It really helped me on my science fair project!


Emili Altschul  8 years ago

i really liked the videos they were great!! i wish the showed us this at school!!! i actully learned something today!!

vreccc profile image

vreccc 8 years ago from Concord, NH

What a great idea for a hub!! I watched both videos. Really cool!!! I learned something.


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