Nov 6, 2003 - Engineers commissioned by an English cidermaker have built a beer mat (known in the United States as a coaster) that is better suited for Smash and Grab a popular pub game that involves flipping the mat up from the edge of a table and catching it mid air.
The BBC reports that Ian Johnston, an aerodynamic expert at the Open University, and Hazel Lucas, who is doing a masters in engineering at Oxford University, spent two months working on the project.
"When I first looked at the project I thought it was a bit of a joke but it soon became fascinating from an engineering point of view," Johnston said. "With the demise of Concorde, our mat is perhaps the most aerodynamically advanced object now in the air."
Johnston and Lucas constructed a special machine designed to simulate the action of a person flipping a mat from below.
"The first part of the research, which was particularly enjoyable, involved going to a canalside pub and experimenting with the different beer mats," Johnson said. "We found the mats behaved differently, mainly according to their shape but also their size and how you balance them on the table."
Further tests found the key to the perfect flip was to have as much of the mat over the table's edge as possible to be able to strike it near the center. The engineers experimented with 35 designs before settling on one they considered the best.
The final design, called the Aeromat, looks much like any square beer mat but uses an arched-shape piece of cardboard, two-thirds of its length. The last third is made from foam, lighter than the cardboard, allowing more than half the mat to balance over the table's edge. It also has a plastic V-shaped wing on either side designed to keep it level in flight and close to the flipper, making it easier to catch.
David Hodge, marketing manager for cider Strongbow, which commissioned the research, said: "This is a breakthrough for the legion of pub sportsmen who have been flipping with equipment unchanged in decades."
Bulmers, which makes of Strongbow, has sent consignments of the new Aeromats to student bars at Manchester University, Nottingham University and University College London to test them before it considers whether to distribute them elsewhere.