Champagne Science

Champagne Science

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: 

                   C6H12O6 > 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

Pop Sci: Back story on champagne research via Chad Haney

      #ScienceEveryday   #HappyNewYear   

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124 Responses to Champagne Science

  1. Chad Haney says:

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Rajini Rao.

    Bubbling by Aswad

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    A bubbling new year to you guys too, Jodi Kaplan and Chad Haney ! 

  3. Azlin Bloor says:

    Great read Rajini Rao! A very happy New Year to you! 

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    Azlin Bloor looking forward to another year of simply smashing recipes from you 🙂

  5. Awwww yet another awesome post from you dear Rajini … =D

    Thanks a lot for this year on G+, all your interesting posts and all the visits you’ve paid mine … ^^

    All the best to you and your family for a joyful, exciting, experimental and Happy New 2015 !!

    Cheers dear !!

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m looking forward to 2015, Magnus Fahlén . Hugs to you and all the best for a wonderful new year! 

  7. ^____________________________________^

    Aww thanks a lot my dear friend … ^^

    ((((( Big Viking New Year Hugs )))))

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Cheers to one of my earliest G+ pals, Kimberly Elaine 🙂

  9. Hpppppyy new year to all dear once

  10. Saleem Smg says:

    Rajini Rao same to you

  11. Chad Haney says:

    For those who want more bubble science, here’s a link from Siromi Samarasinghe

  12. Fantastically interesting as usual, Rajini Rao​ . I have a quiz round later I shall be using this for :-)

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, Chad Haney for the back story to Liger-Belair’s research. He has a long and effervescent career in champagne research 😀 I referenced several of his papers in my 2012 New Year’s post on the bubbly:  I hope he keeps them coming, as long as I can find champagne gifs on the internet!

  14. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao I’m sure a few more GIFs will bubble up.

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    Mike McLoughlin awesome, and do share your quiz questions with us later. I’d love to see how we fare 😛

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    Chad Haney I added your link to the post, thanks! 

  17. The critical radius for bubble nucleation! Some new concept to learn every day. Happy new year!

  18. Chad Haney says:

    You’re welcome Rajini Rao . Thanks to Siromi Samarasinghe, our favorite chemist.

  19. you can also take your time drinking so even more bubble will be created…

  20. Chad Haney says:

    I’m working on that Gnotic Pasta 

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Gnotic Pasta there’s the science of beer froth of course 🙂 Cheers and Happy New Year to you and the family! 

  22. Nick James says:

    Excellent post!  You always have really nice, happy ideas:-)

  23. I’ve been wondering for a while, Rajini Rao this is probably basic chemistry for you: is the Methyl group on the end of Ethanol constantly spinning?

    The carbons are sigma bonded together and there doesn’t seem to be any charges near the methyl group so it seems like it could rotate freely. 

  24. In 1662 Christopher Merret described ( with details ) méthode champenoise in paper presented at Royal Society. It was first “scientific” description of this method. Damn Britons messing with everything – including our French Champagne… 😂😉

  25. Jaz Emminger says:

    Your posts are always so fascinatingly informative 🙂

  26. Rajini Rao says:

    Jaz Emminger new year’s cheers to you and thank you 🙂

  27. Sweet trivia on this evening 🙂

    A very happy new year, Rajini Rao​!

  28. Rajini Rao says:

    Jonas Neergaard-Nielsen all the best for the upcoming year to you too! 

  29. Rajini Rao says:

    Patrick Staight I agree that the methyl group in ethanol is free to rotate. If you scroll down the linked page, you can see the NMR spectra of ethanol:

  30. Rajini Rao says:

    Thank you for that interesting tidbit of champagne history, Leszek Dziędziewicki . Apparently, the story of the discovery of champagne by Dom Perignon is a myth, but I like it anyway: he is supposed to have exclaimed, upon drinking an accidentally fermented bottle of bubbly, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” 🙂

  31. Thank you so much and Happy New Year!

  32. Chad Haney says:

    Speaking of NMR spectra of ethanol, too much ethanol will ruin an MRI experiment. I’m talking about ethanol that’s sometimes used as a preservative for samples.

  33. Rajini Rao I’m kind of in celebratory mood so I don’t have will power to check but if I remember correctly ( from College for Snobs classes ) bottled sparkling wine was served by French monks in the early 1500. Who was first with what in case of any kind of alcohol is difficult to establish and , perhaps, to remember…😇

  34. Rajini Rao says:

    Too much ethanol in the experimenter would also ruin the NMR spectra Chad Haney 🙂 

    But seriously, does the EtOH cause too much dehydration of the sample? 

  35. Chad Haney says:

    No it causes what is called a chemical shift artifact. The “proton peak” in the spectrum for EtOH is close to the peak for protons in water. So the MRI scanner gets confused and you get what looks like a double image. That’s kind of the quick and dirty explanation.

  36. Rajini Rao says:

    Leszek Dziędziewicki it’s too early for me to break out the bubbly, so I can still google 🙂 The Wiki on Christopher Merrett explains that he was more interested in making glass than wine. Because spontaneous secondary fermentation happened inside wine bottles, causing them to explode dangerously, Merret was interested in making stronger bottles. He is credited as being the first to deliberately introduce sugars into wine bottles to generate the bubbly! Glass making in England, in the coal-powered factories of Newcastle upon Tyne, was more advanced than anywhere else at the time (early 17th century).

  37. Rajini Rao says:

    OK, that is fascinating. Chad Haney I learned something new, thank you! 

  38. Chad Haney says:

    Freezing the the neck of the bottle was interesting to watch at the Korbel winery in CA.

  39. Rajini Rao says:

    Ooh, happy experimenting Peter Lindelauf ! I wish I could try some of your bubbly. Thank you for your wishes, and here’s wishing the very best to you guys too. 

  40. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao when you are in the PNW, Peter Lindelauf really isn’t that far from the border.

  41. Happy New Year Rajini!

    Reflecting on this year, your presence has been a gem in my stream! I devour your posts.

    Thank you for your time!

  42. Chad Haney says:

    Peter Lindelauf it’s a secret. 

  43. Rajini Rao says:

    David Andrews thank you for commenting and visiting my posts. Much appreciated, cheers! 

  44. Rajini Rao says:

    Peter Lindelauf I have to be in Seattle on Mar 9 and in SF on Mar 12, so I was considering hanging around the PNW to avoid going back and forth in the same week. 

  45. Chad Haney says:

    That would be sweet if Rajini Rao, Peter Lindelauf and Gnotic Pasta could all meet at a secret location in the PNW.

  46. Rajini Rao says:

    An incorrigible HIRL to remember 🙂

  47. Cheers!, Salud! and לחיים!

  48. Rajini Rao says:

    arromazam pepe thank you.

    आप के लिए नया साल मुबारक हो!

  49. Rajini Rao says:

    Awesome post on the science of beer froth by Chad Haney :

    On widgets and rabbit holes 🙂

  50. Rajini Rao says:

    Hey, thanks and to you too Denis Labelle .

  51. Happy New Year Rajini Rao 🙂 

  52. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, and HNY to you too Prashanth Akunuri !

  53. Thanks for sharing the link, Chad Haney . Happy New Year!

  54. Happy New Year to you Rajini Rao !

  55. Chad Haney says:

    Happy New Year Siromi Samarasinghe​ and Chico.

  56. :-) happy New year 🙂

  57. Rajini Rao says:

    Warm wishes to you, dear Jose M. G. Guerreiro 🙂

    Siromi Samarasinghe I hope you are having a good end of the year and hope to see you sometime in the near future! 

  58. Jim Carver says:

    Although I’m ten days late, or maybe six months, I like to wish everyone a very nice new orbit, and many more as it were.

  59. Happy New Year, Rajini Rao​. Maybe it bubble with good fortune. And puns.

  60. Rajini Rao says:

    Carissa Braun here’s to keeping our spirits high in the new year, and to not whine even in the face of cham pain. 

  61. Jim Carver says:

    Rajini Rao We’ll see how well that sham pain holds up in the mourning.

  62. Rajini Rao says:

    That would not be so grape Jim Carver but Que Syrah Syrah.

  63. Jim Carver says:

    Rajini Rao I was Walla walled in ignorance but refused to be tanned in.

    Sorry, that’s the best I could do. 😉

  64. Jim Carver says:

    Anybody in for something totally ridiculous? Sure, I know you are:

    Champagne Saber Time

  65. Love the post, happy new year Rajini Rao​ 🙂

  66. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, and all the best for 2015 Hudson Ansley 🙂

  67. Gary Ray R says:

    Wonderful post of science for the New Year!

    Thank you so Rajini Rao and I hope the new year brings you health and happiness

  68. Rajini Rao says:

    Gary Ray R thanks, and the same to you and your family. It’s been a good year sharing science and fun here on G+ and making many friends. I’m hoping that 2015 is even better 🙂

  69. Kam-Yung Soh says:

    Happy New Year! Also check out this info graphic on the chemistry of champaign [ ]

  70. Chad Haney Chico didn’t appreciate the loud firecrackers at the dawn of the New Year! Had to comfort her.

  71. Rajini Rao, my next trip would be in one year’s time, that’s when I retire. I would definitely visit you then!

  72. Jim Carver says:

    Chad Haney Man, there are so many jokes in that…i have to refrain.

  73. Rajini Rao says:

    Kam-Yung Soh that’s a neat infograph on champagne, many thanks! 

  74. Rajini Rao says:

    Jan Costantini of course you have a harem of speeding, double parking science goddesses 🙂 Happy New Year and peace! 

  75. Rajini Rao says:

    Siromi Samarasinghe I look forward to your visit! Poor Chico. The fireworks haven’t started here yet.

  76. “One.. Million.. Bubbles..” – Dr. Evil.

  77. I didn’t drink myself so no hang over. My husband does every night so I got to stay sober with the kids.

  78. Happy new year to you all.

  79. Rajini Rao says:

    Thank you for your wishes, Jennifer Isaacs . Jokes aside, hangovers are awful and I would hope that everyone drinks in moderation only. 

  80. Rajini Rao says:

    What to do with leftover, opened bottles of champagne? Cook with it, polish your shoes or take a bubble bath (seriously?!) according to:

  81. Jim Carver says:

    Rajini Rao I wrote a post last year (?) I think it was last year about making vinegar with the leftovers. The quick and dirty of it is to dilute the wine, spirit, whatever down to 5% alcohol and that makes about 5% acetic acid. Strong beer and ale is already about 5% so that’s fine too.

    If anyone is interested in the post I can dig it up.

  82. Rajini Rao says:

    Jim Carver that sounds interesting, do drop the link here if you find it, thanks. 

  83. Jim Gorycki says:

    Happy new year!

    Seems like yesterday that my son was working on gay lussac formulas (pvt?) In high school chemistry

  84. Rajini Rao says:

    Jim Gorycki exactly, this was an excuse to dig into my high school memories 🙂 Happy New Year to you, too! 

  85. Jim Carver says:

    Making vine-gar:

    I re-read it and it’s decent. I have my own mother now and that speeds things up quite a bit because it takes a while to get one going from scratch. You can also buy one from wine making shops and on the internet.

    Does too much sugar cause a problem? Um, maybe, but maybe not, I’m not too sure about that since I don’t buy things with a lot of sugar. Yeast and vinegar bacteria can co-exist so…Questions? Comments?

  86. Rajini Rao says:

    I would love to hear from anyone who has tried making vinegar from wine as Jim Carver has done (comment above). Perhaps one or our adventurous foodies+ friends like Azlin Bloor or Kathryn Kure ? 

    Jim, does the mother liquor form a precipitate during the conversion? 

  87. Jim Carver says:

    Rajini Rao Yes, and I think that is minerals from the liquid as the pH drops, and some of it could be organic precipitates also, depending on the starting material. Oxalic acid comes to mind possibly.

    (Are we speaking in broken sentences today? Yes, I believe we are. 😉

  88. Rajini Rao​ You asked for the quiz questions I used last night. This was a favourite from my round:

    “Wild Bill Hickok was a gunslinger in the Wild West. He had a timid brother called MILD Bill Hickok but neither of them were really called Bill” True or False?

  89. Jim Carver says:

    Thinking about it a little more, I guess it would depend on what species were in there…some things would dissolve more readily and some things would like to fall out more. It is an interesting thought experiment.

  90. Jim Carver says:

    Mike McLoughlin I say false, but it sounds ridiculous enough to possibly be true.

  91. Rajini Rao says:

    Mike McLoughlin not being a connoisseur of the wild west, I had to google him. The answer is False, but I won’t claim any points for it 🙂 

  92. Jim Carver says:

    There is another culture that I know about that uses a ‘mother’. It is a symbiotic relationship between a strain of yeast and bacteria called Kombucha. Some of you may have heard about it. You mix up tea and sugar and it acidifies on its own. The yeast converts the sugar to EtOH and the bacteria turns the alcohol to acetic acid.

    I tried it one time, but I was silly and used Thai tea, well don’t use Thai tea blend because other things in there (probably essential oils) kill the culture. 

  93. Jim Gorycki says:

    Rajini Rao and another appropriate subject would be fireworks colors emitted using different elements. Some of that was learned in chemistry and from Anne Helmenstine​ thanks!

  94. Guys – it is actually true 🙂

  95. Jim Carver says:

    Mike McLoughlin An internet search doesn’t find anything, plus I don’t think Rajini Rao really cares about it. She’s not exactly the type of person who would be interested in gunslingers of the old west.

  96. Rajini Rao says:

    Hey, let’s not start a wild west shoot out here Jim Carver !

    Mike McLoughlin I found this Wiki page that said his name was James 🙂 It’s a pretty long biography and I may have missed the part about his milder brother!

  97. Rajini Rao says:

    Jim Gorycki firework chemistry would be a great way to get young people interested in chemical elements! 

  98. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s some cool chemistry, Gary Ray R . I’d like some gold in my fireworks, please 🙂

  99. Gary Ray R says:

    Gold is also good in Schnapps (Goldschläger), but that will definitely give you a hangover.  For a  liqueur it is very high in alcohol.

  100. Bill Collins says:

    I wonder how many years of New Years gets us to petabytes of bubbles? Happy New Year!

  101. Jim Carver says:

    Rajini Rao That ol’ cowboy was pullin’ your leg there hon. 🙂

  102. Stuti S A I says:

    Thanks Rajini Rao for the effervescent topic beckoning a new beginning 🙂 Happy New Year! Warm regards.

  103. Rajini Rao says:

    Good to see you again, Stuti S A I . Happy new year to you! 

  104. Meir Kramer says:

    Fascinating facts. Thanks for sharing. Good night and a happy year of 2015.

  105. Rajini Rao says:

    More fun than fascinating, Meir Kramer 🙂

    Thanks, and all the best for 2015! 

  106. Mc Chakiri says:

    I have been in touch and go on sale now, so that we are able, and the other day. I have a look at the moment. The comments for your help. I have a look

  107. √ G☺☺d Afternoon 🙂 df♡) 💋

    Have a happy pleasant & great Successful day.Laugh a lot, hate less, Love much and Enjoy every moment of life ….

    Make the day perfect…..

    Happy weekend my friend 🙂

    God bless you:) 

    Beautiful post my dear !

  108. LuSeaL Rooks says:

    Champagne wishes.😊

  109. Vídeo da vídeo da Peppa com meu filhojsjzh

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