Everyone knows how to boil an egg, but how many people know how to unboil an egg? Well Professor Colin Raston knows just how to do that. Colin Raston is a Chemistry professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. After building a machine that could unravel proteins as part of his research, he had this idea of testing the machine by putting a boiled egg into it and seeing what would happen to the egg.
The machine is called a vortex fluidic device and it unboiled the egg by unfolding the protein of the egg whites back to their original form. As a consequence of his work, he was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, which is a parody of Nobel Prizes that are awarded to certain people who have unusual scientific achievements. It is described as an award that is given honors achievements that makes people laugh, and then think. Professor Colin received the award this in Harvard University and did manage to say a few words about his accomplishment.
“It’s not what we set out to do, to unboil an egg, but it’s the way of explaining the science involved and helping the wider world realise the momentousness of it,” he said
“The sheer scale of this is mind boggling. The global pharmaceutical industry alone is worth $160 billion annually and the processing of proteins is central to it.
“The VFD is completely changing it – and is set to do the same for the fuel and food industries. It’s impossible to place a price on the value of this device.
“Winning an Ig is both humbling and amazing.” he concluded.
Although this machine can unboil eggs, the reason behind its making is completely different. Other scientists from Flinders University alongside Professor Colin worked on a machine that could significantly save costs in the pharmaceutical industry. Proteins are common in pharmaceutical industries, especially in the field of cancer medication.
Professor Colin explains, “If you think of a protein as a long piece of spaghetti, it coils up in a special way,”
“Often these proteins coil up into structurally incorrect shapes which makes them extremely difficult to process,” he added
“But the vortex fluidic device causes the proteins to unwind and refold normally by spinning the material in a liquid in a rapidly rotating tube which can be titled at different angles, and the speed of rotation can be varied.”