The Naked Scientist unpacks the physics of popcorn

The Naked Scientist on the Redi Tlhabi Show, Chris Smith shared that scientists, Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko, have demystified the reason popcorn pops.

The study conducted under proper physics scrutiny revealed that 180°C is the critical temperature at which almost all of popcorn erupts.

Smith says that, at the critical popping temperature, the pair found the hull of the corn first extends a "leg" which flips the corn up into the air accelerating it at about 200 metres per second every second.

Figure: Percentages of popped popcorn in an oven. **Image courtesy of the Royal Society's Interface journal. **

Interestingly, the ‘pop’ sound that the tasty snack makes does not correspond with the hull of the corn exploding; rather it results from the release of the 20 milligrams or so of water vapour that has been locked up inside the corn – after the rupture.

Read the published findings in the Royal Society's Interface journal.

Listen to The Naked Scientist explain the scientific process of popping popcorn:


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