Getting the perfect head on a pint of beer might not be the most pressing problem the world faces in the closing days of 2019. Then again, it could certainly make some of those other problems seem temporarily more manageable. At least, that’s the explanation I’m going with to explain the work of scientists in the U.K, Germany, and France. In pursuit of the perfect pint, they’ve been exploring how physics could be used to give beer drinkers an improved version of their favorite grain-based alcoholic beverage — with a head that lasts all the way to the bottom of the glass.
Since a good head helps release the aromas in beer, along with providing a pleasant mouthfeel, that’s an innovation likely to find far greater public approval than killer robots or ever more omnipresent surveillance tech.
By firing beams of neutrons at liquids used to make foams, the scientists involved in the research uncovered new information about the way that additives affect the structure of foam-causing bubbles in liquid. These insights could be used to create foam with more stability that does not burst.
“Just like when we see light reflecting off a shiny object and our brains help us identify it from its appearance, when neutrons reflect up off a liquid they are fired at we can use a computer to reveal crucial information about its surface,” lead researcher Dr. Richard Campbell from The University of Manchester said in a statement. “The difference is that the information is on a molecular level that we cannot see with our eyes.”
The neutron firing was carried out at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France. This institute has one of the world’s “most intense” neutron reactors for use by the international scientific community. “It was only through our use of neutrons at a world-leading facility that it was possible to make this advance,” Campbell continued. “Because only this measurement technique could tell us how the different additives arrange themselves at the liquid surface to provide foam film stability.”
Don’t worry if you’re not a beer lover, though. The research could also have other applications. This includes improving the creamy topping on a flat white coffee, creating better shampoos and firefighting foams, or even developing oil absorbent foams for tackling environmental disasters.
A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Chemical Communications.
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