Champagne Phase Change

I noticed some fascinating physical chemistry--or at least physics--early Monday morning. I had placed a bottle of champagne in the early evening on Sunday for an event at our house with the intention of chilling it quickly and then putting the bubbly to good use. But in all of the fine times that were unfolding later, I forgot about that bottle (there were others that were already cold and getting emptied out)...until this morning when I observed the consequences of my oversight. Inside the freezer, there was no obvious sign of the green glass bottle but there was a mound of what looked like delicate champagne-colored snow or a somewhat slushy froth. I would have tasted it to confirm that visual suggestion, but sprinkled in the froth were glass bits and large pieces of glass, with very few medium sized pieces. It would have been interesting to have witnessed the early moments when the bottle breached due to the pressure of the expanding liquid inside. Were the breach catastrophic, I would have expected that the liquid would have quickly drained from the bottle and there would have been a more ice-like solidification, or that there would have been such a fine spray that there would have been a more frost like coating everywhere with glass shards everywhere. So my guess is that the glass broke in an understated fashion that regulated the escape of liquid and gas such that the gas aerated the seeping liquid in an environment cold enough to quick freeze the resulting froth. Without the glass, and instead packed into a cup with a spoon and straw, I'm sure the stuff would sell, but probably not from the Good Humor truck.

Author: Ivan Amato

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