What happens when the Champagne cork flies out of the bottle?

Picture of Björnstierne Antonsson

Björnstierne Antonsson

When the carbon dioxide moves fastest inside the champagne bottle, it moves at a speed of 1,500 kilometers per hour. Read the fascinating story.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Scientists have found out how fast the gas in a champagne bottle moves just after it is opened. Faster than sound, it turns out.

At midnight there is a bang. Literally for all those who choose to celebrate the New Year with champagne or some other bubbly. But what happens inside the bottle, really, when the clock strikes twelve and the cork takes off? With the help of an advanced computer simulation, researchers have tried to find out just that, Vetenskapsradion reports.

It turned out that the rapidly expanding gas – immediately after opening the bottle – does not have enough space to be pushed straight out, so instead a shock wave is formed that can be likened to a royal crown. Two-thirds of a microsecond after opening, however, the cork is far enough away for the gas to form a cylindrical jet stream moving at supersonic speeds.

When carbon dioxide moves the fastest, it moves at a speed of no less than 1,500 kilometers per hour. That is roughly 20 percent faster than sound, which “only” moves at 1,224 kilometers per hour, or the equivalent of 340 meters per second, writes New Scientist.

Only a millisecond after opening, enough gas has left the bottle for the pressure to have noticeably decreased. The flow of carbon dioxide slows down and the champagne has calmed down enough that you can pour the golden drink into the glass – and enjoy the new year.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Physics of fluids this summer, are based at the Université de Rennes 1, located in France. Where else?

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