Pancakes Can Prevent Blindness?

Posted: Feb 8 2016, 3:08am CST | by , Updated: Feb 8 2016, 3:11am CST, in News | Latest Science News


Pancakes Can Prevent Blindness?
Credit: Rob Eagle, UCL

Understanding the patterns and textures of pancakes can actaully help treat eye disorder glaucoma, study suggests

What has pancakes to do with blindness? It does not make any sense. But according to a new research understanding the patterns and textures of pancakes can actually help treat an eye disorder called glaucoma, which is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.

The appearance of pancakes depends on how much water is released from the batter during cooking process and this is determined by the thickness of the batter.   

Understanding the physics of ‘perfect’ pancake cooking can help protect vision since eyes interact with flowing liquid and abnormally high pressure in the eye caused by the liquid and fluid can lead to glaucoma.

“Pancakes come in many shapes and sizes and everyone has their favourites - some prefer a small, thick pancake with a smooth surface whereas others enjoy a large, thin crêpe with 'craters' and crispy edges. We’ve discovered that the variations in texture and patterns result from differences in how water escapes the batter during cooking and that this is largely dependent on the thickness and spread of the batter.” Ian Eames, professor of fluid mechanics at University College London and lead author of the study said.

For this ‘yummy’ study, researchers examined 14 different pancake recipes across the globe and taken into account “ratio aspect,” the ratio of the width to the height of a pancake and “baker’s percentage” which is the ratio of liquid to flour in the batter or the thickness of the batter.

The lowest aspect ratio around 3 was found in thick pancakes such as Dutch poffertjes whereas the thin and large pancakes such as French crêpes had the highest at around 300. The lowest baker’s percentage (equal amount of flour and water) was 100 for thick mixtures and 175 for thinner mixtures. 

Researchers found that thicker batters tend to trap water vapors and cause irregular craters at the bottom of the pancake. Thinner batters released the water smoothly from the base as they cook and they were even in color while thinnest batters also released vapors smoothly but had darks spots at their bottom. The top surface of the pancake was consistent in color but had tiny channels where the vapour escaped. 

“We found that physics of pancake cooking is complex but generally follows one or two trends,” said co-author Dr Yann Bouremel. “If the batter spreads easily in the pan, the pancake ends up with a smooth surface and less burning as the vapor flow buffers the heat of the pan. 

“We found a thin pancake can only be created by physically spreading the batter across the pan and in this case, the vapour tends to escape through channels or diffusion.”

Researchers hope that these findings can help improve surgical methods of treating glaucoma and also help save sight.  

“We work on better surgical methods for treating glaucoma, which is a build-up of pressure in eyes caused by fluid,” said co-author Ping Khaw.

“To treat this, surgeons can create an escape route for the fluid by carefully cutting the flexible sheets of sclera. It’s a wonderful example of how the science of everyday activities can help us with the medical treatment of the future.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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