Brewing beer at the speed of sound

September 20, 2022

Los Alamos researchers Eric Davis and Vamshi Chillara examine the setup of the SoniView laboratory brewing station.

By Eric Davis

As beer-lovers sip their favorite IPAs on a weekend or after a long day’s work, they might be unaware – and who can blame them? – of the complexity of the brewing process and all the things that can go wrong in getting that tasty beverage from the recipe to the restaurant table. Especially in many of the more than 8,800 craft breweries in the United States, the art of brewing is still very much a manual process, relying on sampling, testing and tinkering.

As a scientist on an acoustic-science research team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I have long been interested in acoustic sensor technology. Developments in this science apply to the oil and gas sectors and other industries, but we saw the potential in the brewing industry. Visiting craft breweries in the Denver area last year, as well as canvassing many of the breweries here in New Mexico, we heard about their challenges and assessed the potential for acoustic-sensor technology in this fast-growing industry that nonetheless has complex technical challenges. It looked like a good fit of technology to a tasty application.

Brewing is a multi-step process. In the critical fermentation stage, yeast is added to a mixture of wort, which is an infusion of malt or other grains, and hops (a so-called slurry) within a stainless-steel vat. Inside the vat, yeast sets to work converting sugars in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Brewers often check progress manually by draining off the product to sample it.

Read the rest of the story as it appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.