• Spain edition
 
Scientists unlock mystery of foaming beer
"The clouds of foam look like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion," says physics professor Javier Rodríguez. File photo: Rikard Fröberg

Scientists unlock mystery of foaming beer

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

A group of Spanish scientists have discovered why beer froths up when two bottles are struck vertically against each other. The findings could help predict how much gas is released during volcanic eruptions.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's CaixaBank reports profits halved
CaixaBank vice president Joan Maria Nin reported the results at a news conference on Thursday. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

Spain's CaixaBank reports profits halved

Spanish lender CaixaBank posted on Thursday a first-quarter net profit of €152 million ($210 million), a 54.6-per cent drop from the figure at same time last year when it was boosted by one-off gains from acquisitions. READ () »

Argentina approves $5b Repsol compensation
The deal has been given the thumbs-up by Argentina's senate and now goes to President Cristina Kirchner for enactment. Photo: JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

Argentina approves $5b Repsol compensation

Argentina's lower house of Congress approved a deal on Thursday to compensate Spanish oil giant Repsol with $5 billion (€3.6 billion)in bonds for the 2012 seizure of its subsidiary YPF. READ () »

Amnesty International slams Spain on protests
An anti-riot policeman chases a demonstrator during clashes at the end of the "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22nd. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Amnesty International slams Spain on protests

Amnesty International on Thursday slammed Spanish authorities for what the human rights group believes is a concerted effort to discourage people from taking part in peaceful protests. READ () »

It's official: Drinking makes you 'blind'
The volume of tears was found to be reduced by alcohol consumption, with potentially serious consequences for night-time driving. Photo of car driving in tunnel:

It's official: Drinking makes you 'blind'

Scientists at Spain's University of Granada have shown that drinking alcohol impairs night vision by intensifying people's perception of haloes around light sources like car headlamps. READ () »

What's on in Spain: May
This is just a sampling of some of the amazing events happening in Spain during the month of May. Photo: David Sim/Jason Paris/Circuito de Navarra/Flickr

What's on in Spain: May

Still not booked up for May? The Local has rounded up a list of some of the best events in Spain, including cultural festivals, music festivals, and major sporting events. READ () »

Martial arts tourists tackle Spanish mugger
The Taiwanese visitors to Ronda were among hundreds of tourists who flock to see the town's historic architecture. File photo: zoetnet/Flickr

Martial arts tourists tackle Spanish mugger

Two Taiwanese tourists used their martial arts skills this week to take down and detain a mugger who tried to steal a woman's mobile phone in the southern Spanish town of Ronda. READ () »

Spain 'fiddles numbers' to shave jobless rate
Spain's official unemployment rate fell from 26.03 percent to 25.77 percent in one fell swoop on Thursday. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Spain 'fiddles numbers' to shave jobless rate

Spain has managed to push down its unemployment rate to 25.77 percent — by adjusting the formulas used to establish the country's jobless rate to include the latest census data. READ () »

Spanish fascists make Euro election bid
A member of Alianza Nacional (National Alliance), part of the far-right coalition hoping to represent Spain in Europe. File photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Spanish fascists make Euro election bid

The list of candidates submitted by two far-right Spanish parties for May's European parliamentary elections includes people who were arrested for attacking Madrid's Catalan centre last year and criminals convicted of possessing explosives. READ () »

Spain records highest growth figure in six years
File photo: Antonio Tajuelo

Spain records highest growth figure in six years

Spain's economy grew at the fastest pace in six years in the first quarter of 2014, the central bank said on Thursday in a preliminary estimate. READ () »

Dad smuggles girl into Spain in suitcase
The eight-year-old was found in a foetal position inside a suitcase Photo: Spanish Civil Guard

Dad smuggles girl into Spain in suitcase

A young Moroccan girl who was smuggled into Spain by her father inside a suitcase has been given permission to stay in the country. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
Top ten: Spain's most expensive streets
International
British expats flee from crisis-hit Spain
National
Thieves destroy ancient rock painting in Spain
Society
Spain to open first gay old people's home
National
'Monkey Jesus' restorer to star in music video
Culture
Seven surprising facts about Spain's Holy Week
National
Spanish tax office sells bras for extra cash
Society
Abortion Travel: 'The agency that should never exist'
National
Top expat moans about Spain on Twitter
Society
Email gaffe reveals how Spanish firms exploit young workers
National
Man hacks off own fingers in insurance scam
Travel & Tourism
Top ten: Spain's best beaches 2014
National
Lovemaking lands woman at bottom of well
International
Jobless Spaniards to be kicked out of Germany
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Health
Serial texter suffers first case of 'WhatsAppitis'
Politics
Six reasons why Suárez is Spain's best loved PM
Politics
'Energy giants out to kill off Spain's solar sector'
Society
Spain's hottest jobs 2014
National
Man dies while taking selfie on top of train
Society
Spanish PM turns down free English course
Travel & Tourism
Top Ten: Spain's coolest hotels 2014
Culture
A to Z of The Local's picture galleries
Culture
Scientists discover why some of us 'hate' music
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 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

1,396
jobs available