Pancakes prove to have more importance than just being a breakfast favorite. Researchers from the University College London found that it may be used to come up with better treatments for glaucoma.
Who would have thought, right?
Turns out, the texture and patterns of pancakes say a lot about how water escapes from the batter while cooking. Such information is important for eye surgeons because it gives them an insight into how flexible sheets such as those found in the eyes react with flowing liquid and vapor. The formula for creating the perfect pancake may also pave the way for better eye surgery treatments.
Co-author Professor Ian Eames says pancakes have different sizes, shapes and textures. There are those that have smooth surfaces, crisp edges and island craters, among others.
"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," he says.
For the initial part of the experiment, the researchers compared recipes of 14 different pancake batters from across the world. They recorded the baker's percentage, which is the ratio of liquid to flour, and the aspect ratio, which is the pancake's diameter to the power of three in relation to the batter's thickness.
The thick pancakes have the lowest aspect ratio and the thin ones like the French crêpes had the highest. The baker's percentage did not exhibit significant differences, with a range of 100 for thick batters to 175 for the thin ones.
The researchers then proceeded to investigate the effects of these numbers on the textures and patterns of pancakes. They made numerous batters with different amounts of liquid content (milk), but with a constant amount of flour and egg. The batters were cooked under the same pan and cooking temperature.
They found that thick batters had irregular craters because water vapor gets trapped underneath. The pancake then lifts unevenly, creating so-called "islands."
The thin batters produced pancakes with even colors on the bottom surface because water vapor is released smoothly during the cooking process. The same results were noted in small pancakes regardless of the batter thickness.
When the researchers added more milk, the pancake bottom exhibited dark spots . This means water vapor escapes smoothly from the bottom and through channels. The top surface has tiny pits, which indicate the location where the water vapor escaped.
Now, how could these discoveries help treat glaucoma?
Surgical procedures for glaucoma aim to create a passageway for an eye fluid called aqueous humor to decrease eye pressure. Scientists think that applying engineering and mathematical principles could help improve these surgeries.
"It's a wonderful example of how the science of everyday activities can help us with the medical treatments of the future," says co-author Professor Sir Peng Khaw.
The study was published in the journal Mathematics Today.
Photo: Miika Silfverberg | Flickr