Corking research: popping a champagne cork

Monday, 29 January, 2024

Corking research: popping a champagne cork

Researchers have resolved the complex gas dynamics that occur upon opening a champagne bottle, or any bottle containing a pressurised liquid and gas, and these dynamics’ interaction with the bottle’s cork stopper. The researchers’ findings have been published in Cambridge University Press fluid mechanics journal Flow.

They found that the difference between the pressure force at the cork’s base and the (sliding) friction force decisively controls the cork’s motion, as the pressure forces acting on its remaining surfaces have negligible impact. Since the (sliding) friction force decreases slower over time than the pressure force, the stopper’s acceleration must exhibit a minimum, found to be near 0.5 ms prior to its full escape. Moreover, this minimum value can become so negative that the stopper gets stuck inside the bottleneck.

Researchers adopted different strategies to assess the spatial and temporal consistency of the numerical method with respect to refined grip resolution and maximum time steps.

The findings also identified that a Mach disc forms between the bottle opening and the freely moving stopper. Mach discs are the pattern of evenly spaced rings visible in the exhaust of an engine or other instances of propulsion.

In this instance, the researchers found that the disc initially exhibits a convex shape due to the radially carrying times of shock generation. It reaches a maximum distance from the bottle opening and then retracts towards the opening. During this phase, a second disc is potentially created upstream of, or split off from, the first.

These findings suggest that sensing the position of the Mach disc provides, quite remarkably, an option to determine either the gas pressure or temperature inside a champagne bottle.

First author Lukas Wagner, of TU Wien, noted that the study has applications well beyond understanding the physical forces involved in uncorking a champagne bottle.

“Our study can serve as a benchmark test for future experimental and numerical efforts, in particular regarding the spatial/temporal resolution of the full fluid–structure interaction of a high-speed gas flow with a solid moving obstacle,” Wagner said.

“The current focus on the involved gas dynamics, highly unsteady and supersonic albeit at relatively moderate Mach numbers, might already provide a better insight into the complex details, specifically the shock structures, of transitional ballistics in related but more extreme situations of engineering importance.”

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