What happens when you pour beer into a hot frying pan?
A video that we first came across on Digg shows how the beer appears to hover over the surface of the pan, whirling around in a solid blob instead of slowly boiling and evaporating.
In physics, this phenomenon is called the “Leidenfrost effect.” It can happen with any liquid, not just beer.
Normally, when you pour liquid into a hot pan, the droplets will sizzle and evaporate. But when you crank up the temperature so that the surface is significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, the heat is so extreme that it boils the underside of the liquid immediately. The resulting vapor acts like a bed, protecting the liquid above it from touching the hot pan. The droplets will fuse together and evaporate very slowly.
You can see the “vapor cushion” and the droplet floating above it in the diagram below:
This Leidenfrost effect is also what allows liquid nitrogen to skitter across a smooth surface:
And here’s the beer again. It looks really cool because of the top layer of foam:
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