Scientists at the University of Limerick have employed the power of applied mathematics to solve the long standing problem of creating a perfect creamy head on a pint of stout poured from a can. 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.
Professor Stephen O'Brien and the research team of Dr William Lee at UL's Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry group (MACSI), funded by Science Foundation Ireland, have uncovered a new technique for bubble creation in canned stout that could supersede the widget. By examining the equations governing the physics of the dissolved gases and fibres they discovered a potentially more cost effective and green solution to creating the perfect head of stout.
Speaking about his research Dr William Lee said, "I was curious about foaming in stouts and sought to understand why the foaming mechanism in carbonated beers and champagnes did not work in stouts. 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."
Dr Lee's 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 and is available on the arXiv preprint server. Further information at www.ul.ie/wlee