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Feb 11, 2015 12:58 PM EST

Science Behind Popcorn Popping: How the Snack Makes its Signature Sound

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Scientists have delved into the science behind popcorn as it breaks apart and makes the distinct sound for which it is named.

According to BBC News, authors of a study published in the journal Royal Society Interface found that individual kernels "pop" at a temperature of 180 degrees Celsius, regardless of their size. The burst is enough to cause the kernel to propel upward and the sound it makes is the release of a vapor.

The whole process takes place in fractions of a second.

"We took advantage of this technique to study... the mysterious and fascinating jump of popcorn," study lead author Emmanuel Virot, a PhD student at the CNRS in Paris, told the Guardian. "As we started to observe popcorn explosions, it turned out that this phenomenon contains interesting physics."

Zea mays everta is the kind of corn typically used for popcorn because it is the only one known to undergo this process, Live Science reported. They rapidly release a vapor because there is a little bit of water, along with starch, in each kernel. After the water boils into steam and bursts through its kernel, the starch then rapidly cools to form a puffy white exterior.

"We decided to make a movie of exploding popcorn," Virot told Live Science. "Then, we discovered there are some interesting properties and biomechanics, so we continued to do it as a hobby."

Virot said he has used his high speed camera in the past to observe why tree limbs snap when caught in a wind of a certain speed. The decision to shoot a popping popcorn kernel was more impromptu.

The study represents a rare foray from the science field into the popcorn manufacturing business. Typically, it is popcorn manufacturers that try to hammer out the best way to produce their product.

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