Inside The Machine That Chills Your Beer In One Minute

It's no "reverse microwave," but it is cool.

V-Tex

How can you turn lukewarm lager to ice-cold beer in under a minute? A startup has developed a nifty gizmo which does just that, saving both energy and embarrassment at parties. Manufacturer Enviro-Cool claims that chilling on demand with a V-Tex could save retailers €1000 per fridge per year, and of course help to keep the planet cool too. So how does the device actually work?

Media reports have dubbed the device a "reverse microwave", but that analogy would receive a chilly reception amongst physicists. Unfortunately, you can't simply wire up a microwave oven backwards and suck the heat from an object.

In fact, despite the PR spin about “Rankine vortices”, this device is remarkably unremarkable in some respects: the rapid cooling of drinks is achieved by putting them into contact with something cold. However, there is a twist: the interesting science here is fluid dynamics, not thermodynamics.

Tricky chilling

It’s easy to heat food quickly in a microwave oven. Why is it so hard to cool things down? The temperature of an object is essentially a measure of how much energy it holds. A hotter object has more energy than a colder one. Cooling is difficult because coaxing the atoms inside an object to give up their energy is a tricky business.

If you want to cool a material at will, you need to choose your material quite carefully. A gas is ideal: gases can be heated by compression (which is why a bicycle pump is warm to the touch after use) or, conversely, cooled by expansion (which is why the rapidly-expanding gas from an aerosol can feels cool).