The Physics of a Chocolate Fountain Unraveled by Studying Falling Curtain

First Posted: Nov 28, 2015 06:38 AM EST

Scientists are taking a closer look at the physics that take place in a chocolate fountain. The new findings may answer the question of why the falling "curtain" of chocolate pulls inward rather than falling straight downward.

"Chocolate fountains are just cool, aren't they!" said Adam Townsend, one of the researchers, in a news release. "But it's also nice that they're models of some very important aspects of fluid dynamics."

In this latest study, the researchers solved the mystery of chocolate fountains by looking at some class work on "water bells." You can build a water bell easily in your kitchen by fixing a pen vertically under a tap with a coin flat on top. This causes a bell-shaped fountain of water.

The physics of a water bell is actually exactly the same as falling curtain of chocolate. The reason why the chocolate falls inward, though, is due to surface tension.

"Both the chocolate fountain and water bell experiments are surprising simple to perform," said Helen Wilson, one of the researchers. "However they allow us to demonstrate several aspects of fluid dynamics, both Newtonian and non-Newtonian."

While the researchers now know why the chocolate fountain falls inward, they're now looking at the way the curtain changes over time. This could have applications far beyond chocolate with industrial applications.

The findings are published in the European Journal of Physics.

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