Chemistry and love — the science of Valentine's Day explained

11 Feb 2009 10:51:00.000

For two people to fall in love the chemistry between them has to be just right. In his latest video for The University of Nottingham’s Periodic Table of Videos website, Professor Martyn Poliakoff examines the science of Valentine’s Day.


This eight minute video looks at why chocolate melts in your mouth rather than your hand, and how roses display that deep red colour so favoured as the perfect gift on February 14. The video has proved a popular one, with more than 10,000 views just 10 hours after being uploaded. It even features Professor Poliakoff — who has become something of a scientific superstar on YouTube —explaining the chemistry of love.

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“In chemistry different atoms and compounds combine together to form stable molecules and complexes,” Professor Poliakoff explains. “In the same way, if you get the right two people they will react together and make a very stable combination.


“Others may combine as something a bit more volatile. And occasionally you get a pairing that’s even explosive. But that’s what makes chemistry fun — and it’s what makes relationships fun as well.”


The Periodic Table of Videos — — is home to short videos examining the properties of the elements, from aluminium to xenon. The site has clocked up more than five million video views. Its sister site — — showcases the work of scientists in Nottingham. Filmmaker Brady Haran is responsible for the sites, creating and uploading videos that have been watched all over the world. 

“We were never going to let Valentine's Day go by without a chemistry film, and it was bit of a no-brainer to make it about chocolate and roses,” Brady said. “As always, Martyn astounded me with the information he can pull from the top of his head, and he is fast becoming a real cult hero on YouTube.

“Obviously people love the way he looks with that crazy hair, but more importantly Martyn also has an uncanny ability to make things simple without dumbing them down. I think just watching Martyn makes people feel smarter.

“Science communicators are always trying to make things easy to understand, but Martyn seems to realise that our viewers still want a bit of the complicated stuff!”


The Valentine’s Day video can be viewed at and


— Ends —


Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Story credits

Professor Martyn Poliakoff, Research Professor of Chemistry, on +44 (0)115 951 3520,
Tara De Cozar

Tara De Cozar - Internal Communications Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8560 Location: University Park

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