Astronauts have hard jobs, and like anyone with hard jobs, they deserve some chips and a nice, deep-fried chicken after work. Don't we all? But there's bad news. According to a new study, it's impossible to fry food in zero g. Nooooooooooo!
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's not practical to fry food in microgravity; all you have to do is watch some footage of water in space and then imagine scalding hot oil. But researchers John S. Lioumbas and Thodoris D. Karapantsios went deeper for their study recently published in Food Research International with some wild experiments that are almost as insane as floating oil globs. They tried to fry food in a centrifuge, for instance.
Turns out, frying food relies on convection, the process where hot oil in a pot rises to the top, cools down, sinks, warms up, and rises again, creating a circular kind of motion.
What the researchers found was that in a centrifuge—specifically at forces of around 3 g—the convection force gets stronger, the oil bubbles get smaller, and fried foods get better. At 9 g, forces actually get problematically strong. And the inverse is also—unfortunately—true, which means that in zero g there is no convective force, and that means that there's no way for fried food to crisp up. Instead it's just a soggy mess.
Even if you could fry food on the ISS, it'd be pretty hard to recommend it, just because of the whole flying oil thing and the cost of transporting it up there. But there's hope for the future. Get yourself a spinning 2001 style station, and all the sudden you're frying in a centrifuge. Problem solved. In the meantime though, astronauts are stuck with powdery packets and pastes. Yum. [BBC Future via Smithsonian Mag]