User:Steven J. Koch/Notebook/Kochlab/2009/07/03/Popcorn in Liquid Nitrogen

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The pack on the left is the LN2-treated popcorn.  It was frozen in LN2 and then we popped it--to see if LN2 damaged the kernels.  It took longer to pop, but seemed OK.  The middle pack is regular microwave popcorn in one of Andy's custom folded paper bags.  Popped 9/10 kernels without burning, not too shabby!
The pack on the left is the LN2-treated popcorn. It was frozen in LN2 and then we popped it--to see if LN2 damaged the kernels. It took longer to pop, but seemed OK. The middle pack is regular microwave popcorn in one of Andy's custom folded paper bags. Popped 9/10 kernels without burning, not too shabby!

Steve Koch 22:55, 3 July 2009 (EDT): After spending most of the night dreaming about whether popcorn could be microwave popped while in liquid nitrogen, Andy and I decided to give it a try. 7 minutes of 1100 Watts microwaving did not produce any popping while submerged. We did learn a little bit, though, about how to microwave pop popcorn (in the absence of LN2):

  • Having many kernels inside a sort of sealed bag is the fastest way to pop the kernels.
  • Isolated kernels by themselves do not pop well.
  • Popcorn can still pop, even after LN2 freeze/thaw cycle.
  • Microwave popcorn is packed in a lot of grease.
  • Probably the most interesting thing to see was that a container of Liquid nitrogen accumulated frost while in the microwave. This was in the weak microwave (maybe 500-800 or so Watts, just guessing). But it showed really how poorly ice heats up compared with liquid water in a microwave. This was pretty cool.

Things to try

  • Mike Pikaart questioned whether kernels had already frozen, since frozen water absorbs far less microwave energy. Quickly submerging and starting microwave is a much better idea.
    • Also, even better would be preheating for a minute or however long it can go without popping. I think that would give quite a head start on the LN2.
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