VSL:SCIENCE // How Dunkin’ Donuts can save the world

Titanium oxide (TiO2) is what makes the powdered sugar on your doughnuts so eerily white. It’s also used to make solar panels. And in this charmingly geeky video, produced by grad students at the University of Notre Dame, scientists turn one of these things into the other.

The students use coffee filters, a very hot oven, and a tablespoon of vodka to extract the TiO2 from a doughnut. Next, they use a few bags of Tazo Passion tea, two glass slides, a pencil, and some more vodka to “sensitize” the compound to sunlight. After the parts are assembled, the chemists take their powdered-doughnut solar cell outside and watch it make energy. Doughnuts, it turns out, are good for more than empty calories.

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