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The food we eat determines how we feel and nothing is better than a good fry, albeit obviously in moderation. As we prepare for missions to the moon and Mars, astronauts will be happy to hear from researchers that one basic comfort food isn’t out of reach, even in space: French fries.
ESA supported research into microgravity frying methods to fill knowledge gaps on Earth and in space. Even though frying potatoes is done all over the world, it involves complex physics and chemistry, and in space it gets more complicated. He wasn’t sure frying would work without gravity. Without buoyancy pulling up, the bubbles could stick to the surface of a potato, protecting the potato in a layer of steam that the researchers thought could leave it undercooked and undesirable.
‘Ask any chef and they will tell you that the physics and chemistry behind food is a complex and fascinating subject that extends to other scientific disciplines,’ says Professor Thodoris Karapantsios of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and member of the research team behind the studies. The document was published in International food research magazine.
To study how microgravity affects cooking techniques such as frying, a new carousel-type experimental apparatus was designed that is safe and works even in the absence of gravity. The experiments were conducted on two ESA parabolic flight campaigns, in which an aircraft flies in repeated arcs to recreate brief moments of weightlessness.
The experiment filmed the frying process with a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture bubble dynamics such as growth rate, size, and distribution, as well as potato escape velocity, bubble velocity, and the direction of travel in the oil. The experiment measured the temperature of the boiling oil and the temperatures inside the potato.
The experiment hardware is automated and closed for security reasons. It maintains a constant pressure inside the frying chamber to avoid leaks, to prevent oil from spilling and to consume less energy in heating.
Fries on Mars
Researchers at the University of Thessaloniki in Greece found that shortly after the potato was added to the oil under low gravity conditions, the vapor bubbles detached easily from the potato surface similar to what happens on the surface of the potato. Earth. While more research is needed to fine-tune some parameters, it indicates that astronauts will be able to have more of rehydrated food on the menu as they explore new worlds.
“Besides nutrition and comfort, studying the frying process in space could also lead to advances in various fields, from traditional boiling to hydrogen production from solar energy in microgravity conditions,” concludes John Lioumbas of the team.
John S. Lioumbas et al, Is it possible to fry in space?, International food research (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2022.112249
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