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Can you unboil an egg? © Getty Images

Can you unboil an egg?

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This may sound like a riddle, but thanks to chemistry it’s actually possible.

Asked by: Brian Lisle, Huddersfield

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When an egg is boiled, the transparent liquid (albumen) around the yolk turns white. That’s because the heat has caused the proteins within it to tangle up randomly. In 2015, a team of chemists in the US and Australia showed they could reverse the process. They added urea to liquefy the boiled egg whites, then put them in a vortex device to pull apart the proteins and return them to their original state.

It may sound like a party trick, but the technique has important applications in repairing faulty proteins used in medicine and industry.


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Authors

Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.

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