Fittingly on Pancake Day, Rebecca Pinnington investigates how pancakes can be used to treat glaucoma at UCL.
Understanding the textures and patterns of pancakes is helping UCL researchers improve surgical methods for treating glaucoma. No but really.
A UCL study published in Mathematics TODAY compared 14 pancake recipes by analysing the aspect ratio of each pancake and the ratio of liquid to flour in different pancake batters (i.e. their thickness).
Ian Eames, Professor of Fluid Mechanics at UCL Engineering, said: “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.”
Okay, Ian, it’s nice that you’re so passionate about pancakes. But what are the scientific implications of all this pancake analysis?
Dr Yann Bouremel added, “If the batter spreads easily in the pan, the pancake ends up with a smooth surface pattern and less burning as the vapour flow buffers the heat of the pan.” When batter is spread across the pan to create a thin pancake, it’s easier for vapours to escape.
“Well, that’s not answered the question at all”, you might think. Actually, it has.
Pancakes are the answer
Glaucoma is caused by a build of fluid pressure in the eye, and can leave sufferers blind if left untreated. Conventional glaucoma surgery involves creating a drainage hole in the eye so fluids can escape, while laser surgery aids the flow of fluid out of the eye’s drainage system. The way fluids escape from pancakes is therefore useful to scientists in understanding and improving the effectiveness of surgical practices.
Professor Sir Peng Khaw, Director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and one of the co-authors of the study, hailed the findings as, “a wonderful example of how the science of everyday activities can help us with the medical treatments of the future”.
Still weird though.
Featured image credit- Flickr
Images in article- Wikipedia, Flickr