Beer in space

Scientists find way to tap balls of beer

Dec 21, 2000 - Dutch scientists haved figure out how to serve beer in space, but after three and a half years research haven't quite figured out how to put a good looking head on that beer.


The British publication New Scientist reported that researchers at Delft University of Technology cracked the No. 1 challenge: getting the beer out of the barrel. On Earth, an inert gas such as carbon dioxide is used to force the beer out of a keg and through the tap. But in space, the liquid would float around idly inside the barrel, which means that as much gas as beer is likely to come out of the tap.

"It has a flexible membrane, which contains the beer, inside the barrel," project supervisor Kajsa van Overbeek explained. "Normal air is pumped between the barrel wall and the membrane to force the beer out."

The team tested their invetion at conditions near zero gravity. They were surprised to find that the beer plopped neatly out of the tap in identical, ping pong ball-sized amounts. That could be fine for an astronaut, who could use a straw or his lips to grab a mouthful.

But there was no foamy head on the beer. Gas bubbles need gravity to rise. In turn, that poses other potential problems in orbit. Gas bubbles inside the stomach can balloon uncomfortably if the external pressure outside the body changes, and it is not easy to belch in space.

However, astronauts aboard the Russian space station Mir have already drunk Coca-Cola without harm and NASA has already tested Alka-Seltzer in zero gravity, so the problem may not be insurmountable, New Scientist said.

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