SCIENTISTS at the University of Limerick have turned their attention to an issue of national importance as St Patrick’s Day approaches this Thursday, and have tackled a ‘heady’ issue that has baffled mankind for decades.
IT IS the type of mind-boggling research that could drive scientists to drink – and in fact, it did!
In advance of St Patrick’s day this Thursday, researchers at the University of Limerick have tackled a ‘heady’ issue that has baffled mankind for decades.
A four-man team at UL recently employed the power of applied mathematics to solve the problem of how to create a perfect creamy head on a pint of stout poured from a can.
And after months of research this was to be the basis of their enterprise – you need about 100 million bubbles to create a proper head on a pint of Guinness.
The question then became how to you create the right conditions to pour a perfect head?
Professor Stephen O’Brien, professor of applied mathematics, and a research team under Dr William Lee uncovered a new technique for bubble creation in canned stout that could supersede the widget, which could be a major breakthrough for the drinks industry.
The researchers found that adding nitrogen makes the drink less acidic and gives it a longer lasting head.
“This research could potentially mean significant financial savings for stout producers who currently must include a high cost widget in each can of stout, which releases a jet of gas into the can as it is opened in order to create froth,” said a spokesperson for UL.
The research team was led by Prof O’Brien and intern Scott McKechnir and PhD student Michael Devereux under Dr Lee.
Dr Lee said their solution to this age-old problem all boiled down to chance, after he gave Mr McKechnie a task to show why Guinness scientifically doesn’t get a good head from a can.
The intern then returned with a few “surprising” results, which were verified by Dr Lee.
Dr Lee explained the science behind the matter: “Most beers and fizzy drinks are pressurised with carbon dioxide, however stouts also contain nitrogen in order to make them taste less acidic and to create smaller bubbles and a longer lasting head. This creates a problem though: stouts containing nitrogen will not foam spontaneously, and so the widget was developed to trigger foaming when the can is opened.”
His solution is to coat the inside of the can with cellulose fibres which may produce the same results as a widget at a lower cost.
The work of the MACSI team at UL has been submitted for publication in the academic journal Physical Review E.