• Spain's news in English
 

Scientists unlock mystery of foaming beer

Published: 21 Jan 2014 14:03 GMT+01:00

It all started in a bar: that's how scientists from Madrid's Charles III University (UC3M) have described the beginnings of their year-long study.

The clashing of base of one beer bottle against the neck of a second bottle got researchers talking about why the beer frothed up.

When no one could provide a convincing reason, the team took their research back to the laboratory.

Using lasers, high-speed photography and bottles of the Spanish beer Mahou, the team — together with scientists at France's Jean le Rond D’Alembert Institute — discovered that knocking two bottles together caused a mini-explosion of carbon dioxide.

Usually carbon dioxide is released very slowly but when bottles collide, this happens in a fraction of a second.

This process involves three separate phases. First, the sudden vertical impact on the mouth of a beer bottle causes a compression wave that spreads through the glass towards the bottom. 

When this wave reaches the bottom of the bottle, it rebounds as an expansion wave that travels to free surface, where it bounces back again.

Next this chain reaction leads to the collapse of air pockets, or bubbles, in the beer, and this creates a cloud of tiny 'daughter' bubbles that expand much faster than their 'mothers' due to their smaller size. 

Lastly, those bubbles expand rapidly and race towards the top of the bottle because they are lighter than the beer that surrounds them. This explosive forces results in the froth.

"These clouds of foam look like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion," Javier Rodríguez, a professor of UCSM's Department of Thermal Engineering and Fluids told Spanish science news agency SINC.

But the research isn't just a novelty.

"One of the applications of this project is the prediction of the quantity of gas which is produced after the eruption of a volcano," explained Daniel Fuster from the Jean le Rond D’Alembert Institute.

The study could also help improve the design of ship propellers and anti-shock structures for buildings.

"This is one of the big advantages of basic research. You learn about physics on the cheap with systems as simple as a bottle of beer and later this helps you understand and try and solve large problems," said Rodríguez of the study.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Breaking news
Brit family of four dead after Gibraltar stabbing

Brit family of four dead after Gibraltar stabbing

The bodies of a British man, along with a woman believed to be his Spanish wife and his children have been found stabbed to death in Gibraltar. READ  

British couple found shot dead in Alicante

British couple found shot dead in Alicante

The bodies of a British couple Peter and Jean Tarsey, 77, were found in their home in Xalò on Sunday, according to police. READ  

Ten delicious dishes for Easter in Spain
Photo: Wamito/Wikipedia Commons.

Ten delicious dishes for Easter in Spain

Easter in Spain means lots of sweet and savoury treats often prepared just for Holy Week, Semana Santa. Feast your eyes on some of the delicious dishes you can look forward to throughout the week. READ  

Tourists flock to Spain in record-breaking numbers
Photo of tourists: Shutterstock

Tourists flock to Spain in record-breaking numbers

Spain has broken not one, but two tourism records, for the number of tourists in January and February, who spent a high of€6.6 billion in the country. READ  

Spain flicks the switch for global Earth Hour
The New Bridge of Ronda switched its lights off during Earth Hour. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Spain flicks the switch for global Earth Hour

Landmarks and businesses in cities across Spain were plunged into darkness over the weekend as part of a global climate change initiative. READ  

What's on in Spain: April 2015

What's on in Spain: April 2015

April is a month of spring celebrations whether it be Easter religious processions, classical theatre or the burial of a sardine. READ  

Cycling
Australia beats Spain in Tour of Catalonia
Alejandro Valverde (L), Richie Porte (centre) and Domenico Pozzovivo. Photo: Quique Garcia/AFP

Australia beats Spain in Tour of Catalonia

Australia's Richie Porte sealed victory at the Tour of Catalonia on Sunday despite Spaniard Alejandro Valverde winning his third stage of the seven-day race. READ  

Post office cleared due to suspicious package
Photo: AFP

Post office cleared due to suspicious package

A package containing "a suspicious white substance" led to the evacuation of a Madrid post office on Saturday. Emergency services said 23 people underwent decontamination as a safety precaution. READ  

Germanwings co-pilot hid illness from airline
A memorial in the town of Vernet, near the scene of the crash. Photo: AFP

Germanwings co-pilot hid illness from airline

The Germanwings co-pilot who crashed his Airbus into the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard, hid a serious illness from the airline, prosecutors said Friday amid reports he was severely depressed. READ  

Britain seeks scientific collaboration with Spain
Photo of a scientist:Shutterstock

Britain seeks scientific collaboration with Spain

Britain is reaching out to scientists in Spain in the hope of strengthening the exchange of knowledge to further scientific research. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
National
Germanwings co-pilot was 'locked out of cockpit' before crash
National
Tearful crash victims' relatives gather at airport
Passenger plane crashes in French Alps
National
Priest arrested for exorcism on anorexic girl
National
Could this be Spain's own Maggie Thatcher?
National
Spain outstrips France and Italy in wine exports
Sponsored Article
Free spirit or tourist: what sort of expat are you?
National
What country is Catalonia most like?
International
Exposed: actress who faked Oscar glory
National
Brooms up! Quidditch casts its spell over Spain
Society
Ten phrases you'll only hear at work in Spain
International
Spanish crowned world's happiest language
National
Eight cool things the crisis did for Spain
National
There is joy in learning something new yourself'
Travel
Top Ten: Spain's best beaches for 2015
National
Euro property bargains up for grabs in Spain
What's On
Spain's craziest carnivals
National
Spanish town fights 'Fifty Shades' bondage hotel
International
Vinnie Jones teaches Spanish in hilarious ad
What's On
Ten golden rules for snagging a Spanish man
National
Are these Spain's most romantic couples ever?
Property
House sales up for first year since crisis began
Gallery
The highs and lows of the Spanish property market
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
National
The five strangest things about Spaniards
Society
Bizarre Spanish fashions you shouldn't try at home
What's On
Top Spanish director to open Berlin Film Festival
National
Young and old, rich and poor join left-wing march
What's On
What's on in Spain: February 2015
International
Spain planned to invade Australia in 1790s
National
Spanish jobseekers fail exam with answers
National
Moving to Spain: a guide for beginners
National
Spain's new penal code: key talking points
International
Spain among Europe's cheapest nations: study
Features
Top ten surprising Spanish inventions
National
Court to study paternity suit against ex-king
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
National
Top ten: must-know Spanish superstitions
International
'Change Schengen rules to catch Islamists': Spain
What's On
Ten ways to spice up your Spanish life in 2015
Health
Spain tops world organ donation rankings
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,374
jobs available