The motivations for certain applications of nanotechnology can run the gamut from ending our dependence on fossil fuels to providing clean drinking water in poor, remote regions of the world. But these high-minded aspirations are not always the goal for nanotechnology applications; sometimes we just want to have a better beer drinking experience.
Australian researchers created a better way to keep beer cool two-and-a-half years ago. But it seems that scientists in Ireland were not entirely satisfied and are developing a new material for extending the shelf life of beer.
Until quite recently, it was unheard of to use plastic for beer containers because oxygen and carbon monoxide would escape through the relatively porous plastic and take away the taste of the beer. But for some years now Nanocor Inc., which is wholly owned subsidiary of AMCOL International Corporation, has been selling its nanoclay materials to create gas-proof plastic composites for beer packaging.
Researchers at CRANN--the Science Foundation Ireland-funded nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin--have decided on a different approach. Instead of using a nanoclay, the researchers will exfoliate nanosheets of boron nitride and mix them into a polymer.
The CRANN team have partnered with the brewing company SABMiller, which has agreed to invest in the research over the next two years, so we're pretty sure to have a commercial product at the end.
So, if we combine the Australian and Irish research we should be able to enjoy a plastic bottle of beer that remains cold over a much longer period of time. The joys of science.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.