Research

Chocolate Fountain

Amidst your holiday celebrations, you may have encountered a chocolate fountain. In a recent paper, applied mathematicians have laid out the physics behind these delicious decorations, and it turns out they are an excellent introduction to many fluids concepts. Molten chocolate is a mildly shear-thinning, non-Newtonian fluid, meaning that it becomes less viscous when deformed. This adds a wrinkle to the mathematics describing the flow, but only a little one. The researchers divide the flow into three regimes: pipe flow driving the chocolate up the inside of the fountain, thin-film flow over the fountain’s domes, and, finally, the curtain of falling chocolate where foodstuffs are dipped. The final regime is the most mathematically challenging and may be the most fascinating. The authors found that the free-falling curtain of liquid pulls inward as it falls due to surface tension. Their paper is quite approachable, and I recommend those of you with mathematical inclinations check it out.  (Image credit: P. Gorbould; research credit: A. Townsend and H. Wilson)

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