If an estimated 360 million glasses of champagne will be toasted this New Year’s Eve, how many bubbles would they release? To figure this fun fact, we’ve got to get back to basics.
It’s a Gas: In 1810, French chemist Joseph-Louis Gay Lussac determined that in fermentation, glucose is converted to equal parts of ethanol and carbon dioxide gas according to the equation:
—> 2C2H5OH + 2CO2
To make champagne, this basic wine is dosed again with glucose (typically 24 g/L) for a second round of fermentation, yielding 11.8 g/L of CO2. All that CO2 is dissolved, under pressure (as much as 90 psi), inside the champagne bottle.
Don’t Shoot Your Eye Out!: The American Assoc. of Ophthalmologists warn that a champagne cork can launch at 50 mph! Why is this? Henry’s Law (1803), paraphrased, says that the amount of gas dissolved in a liquid is proportional to the pressure of that gas above the liquid. When a champagne bottle is uncorked, the CO2 in the space above the liquid escapes, forcing the dissolved gas to come to a new equilibrium. This results in release of about 5L CO2 per bottle.
Fizzy Physics: Dr. Gérard Liger-Belair didn’t care for the over-blown bubble estimates being bandied around the popular press. So, armed with plenty of free samples from Champagne Houses Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, he buckled down for some serious science (it’s a hard life for a noble cause, hic!). After considering such factors as the van’t Hoff equation for temperature dependence, the critical radius for bubble nucleation and ascending bubble dynamics, he published his findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry. The answer to our question? If 100 ml of champagne is poured straight down the center of a vertically oriented crystal flute, about one million bubbles will form, “if you resist drinking from your flute”. But, who’s resisting? 🙂
With that, I raise my glass to yours along with approximately 360 trillion other bubbles world wide, to wish you a Happy New Year!
REF: How many bubbles in your glass of bubbly? (2014) Gérard Liger-Belair http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jp500295e
Pop Sci: Back story on champagne research via Chad Haney http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2012/05/raising-glass-champagne