Garage Science Blog

Opening a bottle of wine without a corkscrew

Fri, 27th Apr 2012

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Is there such a thing as a "girls' throw"?

What you Need

A bottle of wine

A wall

A book, newspaper, or even a shoe

What to do

The idea in the videos is to hit the bottle firmly but not hard against a wall obviously without breaking the bottle. So the bottle is protected by a book, some newspaper or even a shoe. The bottle should hit the wall with its base parallel to the wall.

There is always a risk that the bottle may break especially if it doesn't hit straight. 

What may happen

With the right knack, the cork starts to move out of the bottle.

There is a slightly surprising noise, which seems to be coming from the neck of the bottle instead of the point it strikes the wall, and the wine goes milky due to the production of millions of tiny bubbles.

 

Why does it happen?

This effect seems to be down to a process know as cavitation. Moving the bottle towards the wall causes the wine to slosh to the back of the bottle, pushing the bubble to the front.

             Wine bottle accellerating

As you accelerate the bottle the wine is left behind and pushes the bubble to the front.

Wine bottle stopping

When it hits the newspaper, the bottle stops very quickly, and the wind carries on going.

When the bottle hits the wall the wine tries to carry on, this compresses the bubble slightly, and produces an extremely low pressure next to the cork.

This low pressure causes bubbles - cavities to form, but they are just filled with water vapour, so they are very unstable and the pressure pulls the wine back again.

Wine bottle cavitation

The wine moving forward compresses the bubble at the front of the bubble, and produces such a low pressure at the back that a bubble forms with nothing but water vapour to fill it.

Cork being pushed out

The wine is then pushed back very rapidly as this bubble collapses, slams into the cork and pushes it out slightly.

As the cavities collapse the wine slams into the back of the cork pushing it out.

The cavities also contain a little bit of dissolved gas so they don't quite collapse entirely, and leave behind the minute bubbles which make the wine look milky.

Cavitation in engineering

Cavitation is a very important subject for naval architects, as a propeller produces a low enough pressure to form these cavities, they can collapse near the propeller, and this collapse can be very violent, blowing lumps out of the propeller which create pits. These reduce the efficiency of the propeller, and can eventually cause it to fail.

Cavitating propeller

Francis turbine damaged by cavitation

A propeller cavitating

Damage done to a turbine due to cavitation.

 

 

 

Dave Ansell

Multimedia

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