Carbonated Ice Cream Is a Feat of Physics-and It Actually Tastes Good

Date: 15 June 2020
Carbonated Ice Cream Is a Feat of Physics-and It Actually Tastes Good
  • Five years ago, two inventors at Cornell University applied for a patent to cover their instant ice cream process, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has finally made it official.
  • Pressurized carbon dioxide instantly turns the creamy mixture into ice cream, replacing the slower process of forming and scraping ice crystals over time.
  • The inventors say this new process could eliminate reliance on the energy-consuming "cold supply chain," which transports the confection to grocery stores across the world.
But two researchers at Cornell University have a better idea in mind: instant ice cream that vendors can make right at the end of the supply chain to avoid these costly mishaps.
Five years ago, Syed Rizvi, a professor of food process engineering at Cornell, and then-Ph.D. student Michael E. Wagner came up with a system that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to do the heavy lifting. What they've created is essentially carbonated ice cream.

Working in supercritical fluids, or substances at pressures and temperatures above their critical values (where liquid and gas phases meet), Rizvi was already familiar with some of the properties of high-pressure systems, he tells Popular Mechanics.

For instance, the Joule-Thomson Effect states when a fluid expands from high pressure to a low pressure, it can cause a cooling effect under the right conditions. That's why Freon and carbon dioxide are so common in refrigeration, he says.

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