Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (2023)


There’s something unsettling about 10^32 Kelvin. The deep, red-orange body of the hot sauce looks almost like Frank’s Red Hot, but menacing flecks of red, brown and yellow set it apart from your run-of-the-mill, diner table Cholula or Tabasco.

Black-gloved hands stick a baster into the glass bottle of the 10^32 Kelvin hot sauce and suck up a bit of it, releasing a few drops onto a little cardboard tasting boat. Within those spicy drops swims habanero pepper, ghost pepper and the two hottest chili peppers in the world -- the Trinidad moruga scorpion and the Carolina Reaper.


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Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (1)

GE's 10^32 Kelvin hot sauce. Yeah, it's hot.Credit: Tyler essary/mashable

To avoid looking like amateur, I plunge the whole thing into my mouth, getting it on my lips, tongue and gums. For a moment, the concoction of hellish peppers and unknown ingredients creates a delicious, smoky, savory flavor I could imagine slathering over ribs.

After a couple seconds, the pain starts building. Quickly.

The science of hot sauce

10^32 Kelvin is GE’s hot sauce tribute to “absolute hot,” the temperature at which scientists theorize all matter starts to break down. It was created in partnership with Steve Seabury of High River Sauces and Thrillist.

The hot sauce is also a shout out to some of the work that GE does with creating engine parts. When manufacturing industrial jet engines, locomotives and turbines, GE needs to create parts that are both light and super strong, withstanding temperatures above 3,000 degrees.

At SXSW in 2015, GE had a similar food-science project to show off -- a high-tech BBQ smoker that gives you more BBQ data than most people know what to do with.

Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (2)

OddFellows infused 10^32 Kelvin with ice cream, which was actually pretty tasty.Credit: jon lynn/mashable

To herald 10^32 Kelvin’s release, GE brought the science of hot sauce to Heatonist, a hot sauce store situated in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The entrance features shelves of different flavors; bright yellow bottles of pineapple habanero, pale-brown bottles containing manzana peppers, absurdly red bottles touting the infamous ghost pepper. Beyond them and behind a sliding wooden door, mouth-cooling treats, hot sauce-infused ice cream and people in lab coats mingle around the star of the evening.

The science of hot sauce lies primarily in capsaicin, the compound found in chili peppers that gives them heat. This heat is measured with the Scoville scale, a relatively subjective spiciness scale that gives a good idea of how spicy different peppers are.

For example, the jalapeño pepper averages around 5,000 Scoville heat units -- a decent kick. Orange habanero peppers are about 70 times hotter, measuring between 150,000-350,000 SHU. That’s a big jump.


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The hotter peppers look absurd compared to the habanero, because they are absurd

Those peppers look like a joke compared to the so-called "ghost pepper" (formally called the bhut jolokia), which can reach over 1 million SHU. And the Trinidad moruga scorpion ranges from nearly 600,000 to 2 million SHU. The hottest known pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper, hits between 1.4 and 2.2 million SHU. That’s about 440 times hotter than a jalapeño.

Individual peppers and bottles of hot sauce can range in heat quite a bit, because capsaicin amounts aren’t identical in each kind of pepper, just like how some strawberries taste sweeter than others.

Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (3)

10^32 Kelvin and its supermaterial packaging.Credit: Jon lynn/mashable

Setting my mouth on fire

Whether the capsaicin amount curves high or low in this three-drop sample of 10^32 Kelvin, I know it’s going to hurt. And it does.

After about two seconds of admiring its flavor, the sauce starts making my mouth tingle as a sharp pain spreads across the lower half of my face. It’s bearable for maybe 30 seconds, and then my eyes start to water and I can feel sweat start sprouting from my hairline.

The pain keeps mounting, not unlike the feeling about 15 minutes after you finish getting a tattoo

The pain keeps mounting, not unlike the feeling about 15 minutes after you finish getting a tattoo and your body decides to ask why you just let someone scrape a vibrating needle across your skin for so long. But worse. Much worse.

The habanero and Carolina Reaper provide the brunt of the heat up front, but the ghost pepper and Trinidad moruga scorpion make it last for an unbearable 15 minutes or so. The only liquids in sight to wash the spice away are water and white wine, so I grabbed the white wine.

The sweltering heat lasts for about 20 minutes, then the endorphins start to fill my brain with happy feelings. I feel a little dizzy, but that could be the wine I sucked down.

What capsaicin does to your body

When you ingest capsaicin, your body isn’t really a big fan of it. GE brought a thermal imaging machine to Heatonist that showed you what happens to your face when it meets the heat of 10^32 Kelvin.

Normally, your whole face would read as pretty much the same temperature, but after eating a little hot sauce, you can see that my nose and mouth look blue -- there’s been a temperature decrease.

Via Giphy

That’s because your body recognizes the awful things you’ve just put into your mouth and is preparing your stomach to handle it. Your blood moves from your mouth and nose down to your digestive system so your body can focus on getting through the next phase of eating spicy peppers.

When you eat a ton of capsaicin, like an entire Carolina Reaper, the outer layer of your mouth can blister and your throat can swell. And of course, your digestive system panics and tries to push everything through as fast as it can -- not a fun experience.

Measuring heat

Because capsaicin isn’t something you can really physically pick out of a hot sauce sample, GE used a scientific method to determine how much capsaicin is in 10^32 Kelvin compared to other hot sauces.

With the guidance of GE research scientist John Nelson, I extracted capsaicin from the hot sauce by putting some in oil, thoroughly mixing it with a vibrating machine. Because the capsaicin is oil-soluble, it leaves the hot sauce and attaches to oil molecules.


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To separate the oil and the hot sauce, you take the mixture for a spin in a centrifuge, creating a layer of hot sauce and a layer of oil and capsaicin. I then extracted the oil and capsaicin and placed a drop of it into a spectrophotometer. Spectrophotometers send light waves through substances and measure how much light they absorb. Because capsaicin absorbs ultraviolet light, you can determine how much capsaicin is in a sample by how much ultraviolet light passes through it.

Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (5)

An analysis performed by GE that shows the capsaicin amount in 10^32 kelvin compared to other hot sauces seen in the 280 nm wavelength.Credit: GE

Compared to more common hot sauces, 10^32 Kelvin obviously has a lot more capsaicin in it. GE made a graph of popular hot sauces and how they fared in the spectrophotometer. You can see in the ultraviolet wavelength of 280nm that 10^32 Kelvin beats out every sauce by a large margin.


10^32 Kelvin is now available to buy online for $20. To make sure it doesn’t do any damage (well, inadvertent damage), it comes packaged in "supermaterials" that GE uses in high-temperature industrial engines used in jets and turbines.

Even for hot sauce pros, more than a couple drops of 10^32 Kelvin can make you sweat. It has crazy heat, but the flavor is fantastic. Plus, it has science to back it up.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Hotter than the sun: GE’s hot sauce combines the world's hottest peppers and science (6)

Kellen Beck

Kellen is a science reporter at Mashable, covering space, environmentalism, sustainability, and future tech. Previously, Kellen has covered entertainment, gaming, esports, and consumer tech at Mashable. Follow him on Twitter @Kellenbeck

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