Researchers with the University of Manchester are paving the way for the perfect foamy beer head, one that will last all the way to the bottom of the glass. At the heart of the research is what makes foams last a long time and how to tweak this for a desirable outcome. In addition to cases in which the foam’s longevity could be extended, the same technology could reduce foaming in cases where it is undesirable, such as in laundry detergent.
Researchers led by the University of Manchester’s Dr. Richard Campbell turned to France’s Institut Laue-Langevin, which is considered one of the foremost centers for neutron research in the world. According to the university, this French institute is home to one of the most intense neutron sources globally and it’s that technology that’s behind this latest study.
As part of the study, which was recently published in Chemical Communications, the researchers fired neutron beams at various liquids that can be used to produce foams. The neutrons reflect off the liquids and computers crunch through the resulting data, providing the scientists with data about the surface at the molecular level.
The study looked at liquid mixes that included a polymer and surfactant, which are used to decrease surface tension and cause foaming. The technology and information it reveals may one day help developers craft products that produce the ideal amount of foam — just enough for certain products and not too much for others.
These applications extend beyond things like the perfect amount of foam in a cup of coffee or a glass of beer. The university points out that engineering products with the right amount of foam — and with the desired longevity — could help ensure that foams used for fighting fires don’t fizzle away too quickly, for example, and that effective foams can be created for dealing with oil spills.