Defy gravity? As if! – new soft drink called Orbit is made with a gel that seems to make flavor particle defy gravity

Defy gravity? As if! – new soft drink called Orbit is made with a gel that seems to make flavor particle defy gravity – Brief Article

Maria L. Chang

“Defy Gravity!” That’s the motto of the beverage, Orbitz, introduced around the country last May. With brightly colored spheres suspended in clear liquid, this beverage is a real attention-grabber.

But what keeps those flavor balls suspended mid-liquid? Are they really defying gravity?

According to Jesse Wolff, a chemical engineer who helped develop Orbitz, the fluid portion of the drink is no ordinary liquid. It’s what scientists call a “fluid gel,” made from ingredients similar to those in Jell-O.

The fluid gel contains microscopic, stringlike particles that make up an invisible scaffolding or matrix. This matrix of invisible “strings” helps support the colorful spheres and keeps them suspended in the drink (see diagram, inset below).

But what about gravity, Earth’s downward pull on all objects? We did an experiment. We left the drink alone for a few days to test what would happen. Result: The spheres gradually moved down through the liquid. But they never sank completely to the bottom.

William Chalupa, a fluid-gel expert, concedes that “gravity does indeed act on Orbitz.” When the beverage sits on the shelf for a while, he says, gravity pulls down on the flavor spheres and the weblike matrix. But the matrix will compact, or squeeze together, only to a certain point. That’s why the spheres don’t sink all the way.

When you shake the bottle, the matrix particles spread out, and the flavor spheres suspend again. So, Wolff says, “the illusion is that they defy gravity.”

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