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Publication numberUS20070199615 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/709,123
Publication dateAug 30, 2007
Filing dateFeb 22, 2007
Priority dateFeb 28, 2006
Also published asEP1961672A2, EP1961672A3
Publication number11709123, 709123, US 2007/0199615 A1, US 2007/199615 A1, US 20070199615 A1, US 20070199615A1, US 2007199615 A1, US 2007199615A1, US-A1-20070199615, US-A1-2007199615, US2007/0199615A1, US2007/199615A1, US20070199615 A1, US20070199615A1, US2007199615 A1, US2007199615A1
InventorsBob Larimer, Edward Kilduff
Original AssigneeBob Larimer, Edward Kilduff
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Vessel stopper with a pressure indicator
US 20070199615 A1
Abstract
Disclosed are systems and methods for preserving wine in a vessel. The system comprises a stopper adapted for engaging and airtight sealing the mouth of the vessel; the stopper comprises a valve assembly operable to draw and maintain a pressure differential within the vessel and a pressure indicator operable to indicate vacuum pressure within the vessel The system further comprises a pump operable to engage the valve assembly and to draw gas from within the vessel to an external atmosphere.
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Claims(32)
1. An insert for a vessel, comprising:
a body adapted for inserting into the vessel and forming an airtight seal therewith;
a valve assembly disposed in said body for providing a passage into the vessel and for closing said passage; and
a pressure indicator disposed in said body for indicating a pressure within the vessel.
2. The insert of claim 1, wherein said pressure indicator comprises:
a pressure sensor for sensing said pressure; and
a display connected to said pressure sensor for displaying said pressure sensed by said pressure sensor.
3. The insert of claim 2, wherein said display comprises:
a plurality of pressure indicia inscribed on said face, wherein each indicium represents a different pressure; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said indicia.
4. The insert of claim 2, wherein said display comprises:
a face;
a plurality of colors inscribed on said face, wherein each color represents a range of different pressures; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said colors.
5. The insert of claim 1, further comprising:
a sheath disposed around said body; and
a plurality of ridges extending radially outward from said sheath, wherein said plurality of ridges are wider than the mouth of the vessel, for forming an airtight seal between said body and the vessel.
6. The insert of claim 1, wherein said valve assembly comprises:
a frame disposed in said body, wherein said frame has an orifice for providing fluid communication into the vessel; and
a valve stem disposed in said frame adapted for moving between an open position and a closed position with respect to said orifice.
7. The insert of claim 6, wherein said valve assembly further comprises:
a biasing means operatively connected to said valve stem for biasing said valve stem towards said closed position.
8. The insert of claim 1, wherein said valve assembly is adapted for engaging a vacuum pump.
9. A system for preserving a beverage within a vessel, the system comprising:
a body adapted for inserting into the vessel and forming an airtight seal therewith;
a valve assembly disposed in said body for providing a passage into the vessel and for closing said passage;
a pressure indicator disposed in said body for indicating a pressure within the vessel; and
a pump for engaging said valve assembly and drawing said pressure
10. The system of claim 9, wherein said pressure indicator comprises:
a pressure sensor for sensing said pressure; and
a display connected to said pressure sensor for displaying said pressure sensed by said pressure sensor.
11. The system of claim 10, wherein said display comprises:
a face;
a plurality of pressure indicia inscribed on said face, wherein each indicium represents a different pressure; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said indicia.
12. The system of claim 10, wherein said display comprises:
a face;
a plurality of colors inscribed on said face, wherein each color represents a range of different pressures; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said colors.
13. The system of claim 9, further comprising:
a sheath disposed around said body; and
a plurality of ridges extending radially outward from said sheath, wherein said plurality of ridges are wider than the mouth of the vessel, for forming an airtight seal between said body and the vessel.
14. The system of claim 9, wherein said valve assembly comprises:
a frame disposed in said body, wherein said frame has an orifice for fluid communication into the vessel; and
a valve stem disposed in said frame adapted for moving between an open position and a closed position with respect to said orifice.
15. The system of claim 14, wherein said valve assembly further comprises:
a biasing means operatively connected to said valve stem for biasing said valve stem towards said closed position.
16. The system of claim 9, wherein said pump is selected from the group consisting of a manual pump and an electric pump
17. A method for preserving a beverage within a vessel, the method comprising:
sealing the vessel with an insert for creating an airtight seal therewith;
opening a fluid pathway within said insert between the vessel and an external atmosphere;
removing air from the vessel through said fluid pathway thereby creating a negative pressure within the vessel;
closing said fluid pathway for maintaining said negative pressure within the vessel; and
sensing said negative pressure within the vessel.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising a step of displaying said negative pressure.
19. The method of claim 15, further comprising a step of providing a valve assembly for opening and closing said fluid pathway.
20. The method of claim 15, further comprising a step of providing a pressure sensor for sensing said negative pressure.
21. The method of claim 15, further comprising a step of providing a vacuum pump for removing air from the vessel.
22. A system for preserving a beverage, the system comprising:
a vessel for storing a beverage therein;
a body adapted for inserting into the vessel and forming an airtight seal therewith;
a valve assembly disposed in said body for providing a passage into the vessel and for closing said passage;
a pressure indicator disposed in said body for indicating a pressure within the vessel; and
a pump for engaging said valve assembly and drawing said pressure.
23. The system of claim 22, wherein said pressure indicator comprises:
a pressure sensor for sensing said pressure; and
a display connected to said pressure sensor for displaying said pressure sensed by said pressure sensor.
24. The system of claim 23, wherein said display comprises:
a face;
a plurality of pressure indicia inscribed on said face, wherein each indicium represents a different pressure; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said indicia.
25. The system of claim 23, wherein said display comprises:
a face;
a plurality of colors inscribed on said face, wherein each color represents a range of different pressures; and
an indicator disposed upon said face and connected to said pressure sensor for indicating at least one of said colors.
26. The system of claim 22, further comprising:
a sheath disposed around said body; and
a plurality of ridges extending radially outward from said sheath, wherein said plurality of ridges are wider than the mouth of the vessel, for forming an airtight seal between said body and the vessel.
27. The system of claim 22, wherein said valve assembly comprises:
a frame disposed in said body, wherein said frame has an orifice for providing fluid communication into the vessel; and
a valve stem disposed in said frame adapted for moving between an open position and a closed position with respect to said orifice.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein said valve assembly further comprises:
a biasing means operatively connected to said valve stem for biasing said valve stem towards said closed position.
29. The system of claim 22, wherein said pump is selected from the group consisting of a manual pump and an electric pump.
30. The system of claim 22, wherein said vessel is adapted to withstand a negative pressure of about 50 cmHg or more.
31. The system of claim 22, wherein said vessel is manufactured of a material selected from the group consisting of glass, Plexiglass, and plastic.
32. The system of claim 22, wherein the thickness of the walls of said vessel is greater than 3 mm
Description
    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/365,001 entitled “Decanter Stopper with a Vacuum Pressure Indicator”, filed on Feb. 28, 2006, which is incorporated in its entirety by reference herein.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0003]
    The present invention relates generally to systems and methods for preserving beverages and more specifically to a vessel stopper having means for drawing and maintaining a vacuum within the vessel and a vacuum pressure indicator to indicate vacuum pressure within the vessel.
  • [0004]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0005]
    It is to be understood that a “vessel” may be any container suitable for holding a liquid. In particular, a “vessel” shall refer to either a wine bottle or a decanter. A “wine bottle” is a vessel, usually made of glass, which is used to hold wine. Wine bottles come in different shapes and sizes depending upon the type of wine they hold. A wine bottle usually comprises a vessel having a cylindrical body and a relatively long, narrow, elongated neck. A standard wine bottle holds 750 ml of wine, although other volumes are common. Wine bottles are typically sealed with a stopper, typically made of cork, to prevent oxidation although plastic stoppers are also used. A “decanter” may be a vessel used for holding the results of decantation where a liquid beverage from another vessel is poured into the decanter and the sedimentary remainder of the liquid is left in the original vessel. Decanters ate commonly used to store various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including wines, juices and the like. Decanters come in various shapes and sizes and may be ornate and suitable for serving liquid beverages. A decanter usually comprises a vessel having a spherical body and a narrow, elongated neck. Decanters often come with stoppered lids, which, in addition to preventing accidental spilling of the liquid from the vessel, prevent excessive exposure of the beverage to the air, which may cause deterioration of the beverage contained therein.
  • [0006]
    For example, once an alcoholic beverage, such as wine, is transferred into the decanter, it is usually allowed to “breathe” for a half an hour or so. Exposing the wine to air for this short time is known to improve the wine. Exposure of the wine to air for longer periods, such as six hours or more, however, tends to deteriorate the wine. In particular, oxygen present in the air contacting the unconsumed wine in the decanter will oxidize the wine, resulting in off-flavors in the unconsumed wine. Similarly, the quality of non-carbonated soft drinks may deteriorate upon exposure to air due to oxidation or other chemical reactions. Therefore, the decanters are often sealed with a stopper shortly after transfer of the beverage thereto to prevent oxidation of the beverage. Similarly, wine bottles are often resealed with the cork or plastic stopper that came with the bottle to prevent the deterioration of leftover wine due to oxidation. Alternatively, an opened wine bottle may also be resealed with a new, aesthetically pleasing stopper.
  • [0007]
    Some wine enthusiasts go even further in the attempt to preserve the unconsumed wine. For example, one known method for saving the unconsumed wine from the oxidation caused by the air trapped in the partially filled stoppered vessel is to remove the trapped air using a pump system by drawing a vacuum within the vessel. Such systems comprise a vessel stopper having a valve therein and a vacuum pump. The operation of the pump may open the valve, and may then extract the air from the vessel drawing a vacuum therein. Once the pump is removed, the valve closes by the pressure difference across the valve or by other means; thereby the contents of the vessel are preserved in the substantially air-free environment. To open the vessel, the valve must be manually opened, which allows air to flow back into the vessel and the stopper to be removed.
  • [0008]
    Even though the above-described prior art systems are relatively simple to use and inexpensive to manufacture, they have several shortcomings. For one, a seal formed by the stopper valve is generally not very stable and prone to failure due to natural and mechanical causes. For example, the presence of liquid or dust particles on the valve may result in a leaky seal, depressurization of the vessel, and/or inadvertent penetration of air into the vessel Furthermore, repeated use of the stopper as well as the pressure differential across thereof may result in degradation of its elastic properties. Should the seal fair due to these or other reasons and allow air to enter the vessel, the wine will deteriorate due to oxidation or other chemical reactions. The system however provides no suitable means for detecting the failure of the seal and the resultant depressurization of the vessel Such failure, if it remains undiscovered, will allow deterioration of the wine to progress undetected Another shortcoming of the prior art pump systems is that the provided stoppers are usually configured to only fit a single size or standard-size wine bottle and thus are not suitable for non-standard sized wine bottles or decanters, which typically have much wider neck openings.
  • [0009]
    Therefore, there is a need in the art to provide an improved system for preserving wine and other beverages stored in a vessel from deterioration due to oxidation and other chemical reactions caused by the presence of air in the vessel. More specifically, there is a need to provide a stopper system having means for drawing and maintaining a vacuum within the vessel and for providing a visible indication in the event of the depressurization of the vessel. Furthermore, it is desirable for the stopper, system to be readily manufactured using standard manufacturing processes and using commonly available materials.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0010]
    According to one embodiment of the present invention, a stopper system is provided comprising a cylindrical body having a lower portion adapted for insertion into the vessel mouth and for forming an airtight seal therein and an enclosed upper portion having a first and a second opening. The stopper further comprises a valve assembly disposed within the first opening of the upper portion of the cylindrical body. The valve assembly may be operable to draw and maintain a pressure differential within the vessel. The stopper further comprises a pressure indicator disposed within the second opening of the upper portion of the cylindrical body for measuring vacuum pressure within the vessel. The pressure indicator may comprise an analog or digital vacuum gauge. The stopper further comprises an elastic sheath dispose around the lower portion of the cylindrical body. The sheath may have a plurality of ridges extending radially outward for forming an airtight sealing contact with the vessel mouth.
  • [0011]
    In one embodiment, the valve assembly of the vessel stopper comprises a rigid cover having an orifice therethrough and a flange. It further comprises a biasing means and a valve extending through the biasing means and through the orifice of the cover. The valve assembly further comprises an elastic frame having a circumferential lip defining a groove for engaging the flange of the cover, wherein the lower portion of the frame is adapted for insertion into the first opening in the upper portion of the stopper and wherein the upper portion of the frame is adapted for engaging a pump.
  • [0012]
    In another embodiment, the valve assembly of the vessel stopper comprises an elastic outer frame having a lower flange extending radially inward to define a lower orifice having a sealing surface and an upper flange portion extending radially outward and having a circumferential groove on the inner surface thereof. The valve assembly further comprises a rigid inner flame having an upper flange extending radially outward to engage the circumferential groove and an upper flange extending radially inward to define an upper orifice. A valve extends through the upper orifice to the lower orifice and having a flange extending radially outward for engaging the inward extending upper flange of the inner flame and a lower portion for engaging the sealing surface of lower orifice of the outer frame.
  • [0013]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, a method for preserving beverage in a vessel using a stopper adapted for insertion into the vessel mouth is disclosed. The method comprises the stopper airtight sealing the vessel mouth, providing a path through the stopper for withdrawing air from within the vessel into the external atmosphere, thereby drawing a vacuum therein, measuring the vacuum pressure within the vessel, displaying in a human-readable form the measured vacuum pressure, and airtight sealing the air path through the stopper to maintain the pressure differential within the vessel. The method further comprises detecting a vacuum pressure drop within the vessel and displaying in a human-readable form the detected vacuum pressure drop.
  • [0014]
    The method further comprises providing a valve assembly operable to provide the air path through the stopper and providing a valve operable to airtight seal the air path through the valve assembly. The method further comprises providing a pressure indicator operable to measure vacuum pressure within the vessel and display the measured pressure in a human-readable form. The method further comprises providing a pump adapted to engage the valve assembly and to draw air from within the vessel to an external atmosphere.
  • [0015]
    In another embodiment of the present invention, an insert for a vessel comprises a body adapted for insertion into a vessel and forming an airtight seal therewith. The insert further comprises a valve assembly disposed in the body for providing a passage into the vessel and for closing the passage. The insert further comprises a pressure indicator disposed in the body for indicating a pressure within the vessel.
  • [0016]
    The pressure indicator further comprises a pressure sensor for sensing the pressure and a display connected to the pressure sensor for displaying the pressure sensed by said pressure sensor.
  • [0017]
    The valve assembly further comprises a frame disposed in the body, wherein the frame has an orifice for providing fluid communication into the vessel and a valve stem disposed in the frame adapted for moving between an open position and a closed position with respect to the orifice.
  • [0018]
    In another embodiment of the present invention, a system for preserving a beverage comprises a vessel for storing a beverage therein, a body adapted for inserting into the vessel and forming an airtight seal therewith, a valve assembly disposed in the body for providing a passage into the vessel and for closing the passage, a pressure indicator disposed in the body for indicating a pressure within the vessel, and a pump for engaging the valve assembly and drawing the pressure.
  • [0019]
    In another embodiment of the present invention, a method for preserving a beverage within a vessel comprises sealing the vessel with an insert for creating an airtight seal therewith, opening a fluid pathway within the insert between the vessel and an external atmosphere, removing air from the vessel through the fluid pathway thereby creating a negative pressure within the vessel, closing the fluid pathway for maintaining the negative pressure within the vessel, and sensing the negative pressure within the vessel.
  • [0020]
    The disclosed systems and methods have several improvements and advantages over the prior art. One such advantage is that the invention provides means for drawing and maintaining vacuum within the vessel and thereby preserving unconsumed wine or other beverages stored in a vessel from deterioration due to oxidation and other chemical reactions. Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides means for indicating a depressurization of the vessel. Yet another advantage of the present invention is that is can be readily manufactured using standard manufacturing processes and using commonly available materials. Other advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following drawings and detailed description of the specific embodiments of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
  • [0021]
    Various embodiments of the present invention are illustrated in the following drawings, which ate meant to be exemplary only and ate not limiting on the scope of the present invention, and in which
  • [0022]
    FIG. 1 a is an orthogonal view of the decanter stopper in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 1 b is an orthogonal view of the wine bottle stopper in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 2 a is a cross-section view of the decanter stopper in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 2 b is a cross-section view of the wine bottle stopper in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 3 is a cross-section view of the valve assembly in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 4 is a cross-section view of the valve assembly in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 5 is a cross-section view of the pressure sensor in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 6 a is a cross-section view of the decanter stopper depicted as positioned on the neck of a decanter in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 6 b is a cross-section view of the wine bottle stopper depicted as positioned on the neck of a wine bottle in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention and
  • [0031]
    FIG. 7 is a flowchart diagram depicting a method for preserving a beverage in a vessel in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0032]
    In the following description of the various embodiments of the present invention, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration various embodiments of the present invention. It is to be understood that the scope of the present invention is not limited by the following description and by the accompanying drawings.
  • [0033]
    The term “stopper”, as it is used hereafter, shall be understood to refer to a device which is used to seal any vessel, including a stopper for a wine bottle and a stopper for a decanter. When reference is made to a stopper specifically designed for a wine bottle, the term “wine bottle stopper” shall be used. When reference is made to a stopper specifically designed for a decanter, the term “decanter stopper” shall be used. FIGS. 1 a, 1 b, 2 a, and 2 b illustrate a stopper 10. FIGS. 1 a and 2 a illustrate orthogonal and sectional views, respectively, of a decanter stopper in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. FIGS. 1 b and 2 b illustrate orthogonal and sectional views, respectively, of a wine bottle stopper in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The stopper 10 comprises a one-piece, integral, cylindrical body having an upper enclosed portion 12 and lower portion 14, which may be defined by a circumferential flange 20 extending radially outward The enclosed upper portion 12 of the stopper 10 may comprise a semi-spherical or semi-cylindrical body having two openings 32 and 34. The lower portion 14 is adapted to be inserted into the mouth of the vessel and thus may have an outside diameter 23 that is less than the inside diameter of the vessel neck. In one embodiment, the lower portion 14 of the stopper 10 may have a slightly conical shape to completely fit into the neck of the vessel, which may also have a conical shape The lower edge 21 of the flange 20 acts as an index, abutting the lip of the vessel mouth when the lower portion 14 is properly positioned within the vessel neck. In one embodiment, the lower portion 14 may also comprise a flange 36, which extends radially outward, thereby defining a circumferential groove 38 between flange 36 and flange 20.
  • [0034]
    In one embodiment, the stopper 10 may also comprise an elastic tubular sheath 30, which may be dispose around the lower portion 14 of the stopper 10. The sheath 30 may comprise a flange 40 extending radially inward to engage the groove 38 of the lower portion 14 of the stopper 10. The lower portion of sheath 30 may extend radially inward to hook around the edge of the lower portion 14 of the stopper 10. In one embodiment, the sheath 30 may have a plurality of flexible ridges 22 extending radially outward. The ridges 22 may have diameter slightly larger than the inner diameter of the vessel neck. Consequently, the ridges 22 are resiliently compressed when the lower portion 14 of the stopper 10 is inserted into the vessel mouth and/or neck, thereby forming an airtight and fluid-tight seal between the lower portion 14 and the vessel mouth and/or neck, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0035]
    In one embodiment, the stopper 10 may be manufactured from ABS, or other types of thermoformed plastic, which may be easily molded into the required form using standard manufacturing processes known to those skilled in the art. In other embodiments, the stopper 10 may be manufactured using other commonly available materials such as resin, silicon, or the like, or mole rigid materials, such as Plexiglas, ceramic, metal, or the like. Furthermore, in one embodiment, the elastic sheath 30 may be manufactured from various resilient materials, such as resin, silicon or the like, using standard manufacturing processes known to those skilled in the art.
  • [0036]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, the upper portion 12 of the stopper 10 may comprise two openings 32 and 34, which may be defined by longitudinal, cylindrical sleeves 33 and 35, respectively. The opening 32 may house a valve assembly 16 which creates a passageway from the external atmosphere to inside the vessel and is operable to open and close the passageway. Valve assembly 16 is also operable to maintain a pressure differential within the vessel, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The opening 34 may house a pressure indicator 18 operable to measure and display vacuum pressure within the vessel, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. It is to be understood that there are many ways of referring to the pressure within the vessel. Such pressure may be referred to as a “pressure differential” meaning the pressure difference that exists between the external atmosphere and within the vessel. Such pressure may also be referred to as “negative pressure” which is to be understood as referring to the fact that pressure within the vessel is less than the outside atmosphere. Such pressure may also be referred to as “vacuum pressure” since the pressure within the vessel is cleated by means of a vacuum pump. The various embodiments of the valve assembly 16 and pressure indicator 18 will be described next with reference to FIGS. 3, 4, and 5.
  • [0037]
    FIG. 3 illustrates a valve assembly in accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The valve assembly may comprise an outer frame 40, inner frame 42, and valve 65. Alternately, the valve assembly may comprise a single frame as opposed to an inner and outer frame. The one-piece, integral outer frame 40 may be composed of a resilient material, such as resin, silicon, or the like. The outer frame 40 may comprise a longitudinally extending, cylindrical sleeve portion 44, an upper flange portion 46, and a lower flange portion 48. The sleeve portion 44 is inserted within the opening 32 and through sleeve 33 of the stopper 10, and has an outside diameter 41 that is less than the inside diameter of the sleeve 33. A number of thin sealing ridges 43 extend circumferentially around and laterally outward from the outer surface 45 of the sleeve portion 44 The ridges 43 each have an outside diameter 47 which is slightly greater than the inside diameter of the sleeve 33. Consequently, the ridges 43 are resiliently compressed when the sleeve portion 44 is inserted into the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10, thereby forming an airtight and fluid-tight seal between the sleeve portion 44 and sleeve 33.
  • [0038]
    The upper flange portion 46 extends laterally outward from the outer surface 45 of sleeve portion 44 and longitudinally upward from the upper end 49 of sleeve portion 44. The lower edge 51 of the upper flange 46 acts as an index, abutting the upper edge of the sleeve 33 when the sleeve portion 44 is properly positioned within the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10. A number of thin sealing ridges 57 extend circumferentially around and laterally outward from the outer surface of the upper flange 46. The ridges 57 each have an outside diameter which is slightly greater than the inside diameter of the outer sleeve of a vacuum pump. Thus, the ridges 57 are resiliently compressed when the outer sleeve of a vacuum pump engages upper flange 46 of the outer frame 40. An axial bore 52 extends longitudinally through the upper flange portion 46 and the sleeve portion 44. The lower flange portion 48 may extend laterally inward to an axial orifice 54, thereby partially closing bore 52. The orifice 54 may have a tapered, conical-shaped, sealing surface forming a valve seat 56, as further described below.
  • [0039]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, a rigid, one-piece, integral, inner frame 42 is disposed within the bore 52 of the outer frame 40 and is preferably composed of a hard polymeric material, such as plastic. The inner frame 42 includes a longitudinally extending, cylindrical sleeve portion 58 and an upper flange 60, which extends laterally outward from the outer surface 59 of sleeve portion 58 and longitudinally upward from the upper end 62 of sleeve portion 58. A stepped axial opening 64 extends longitudinally through the sleeve 58 and upper flange 60. The diameter of the opening 61 in the sleeve portion 58 is greater than the diameter of the opening in the upper flange portion 60, such that the upper flange portion 60 forms a downward facing shoulder 69. The upper flange 60 is received in a circumferential groove 53 on the inner surface of upper flange 46. Preferably, the outer diameter of the upper flange 60 is greater than the inside diameter of the opening 32 and sleeve 33 whereby the rigid material of upper flange 60 and the resilient material of upper flange 46 could not be inserted into the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10.
  • [0040]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, a rigid, one-piece, integral, valve 65 is disposed in an opening 61 of the inner frame 42. The valve 65 has an upper operator portion 66 connected to a lower valve body portion 68 by a longitudinally extending shaft portion 67. The operator portion 66 has a knob-shape to facilitate gripping by a user's hand. The outside diameter of the operator portion 66 is greater than the diameter of the opening formed in the upper flange 60 of the inner frame 42 such that operator portion 66 cannot be pushed or pulled through opening 61. The valve body portion 68 has a conical shape which is complementary to that of the orifice 54 in the lower flange portion 48 of the outer frame 40 such that the seating surface 56 of the orifice 54 may form an airtight and fluid-tight seal with the valve body portion 68 when the valve body portion 68 is urged into the orifice 54 under the vacuum pressure within the vessel. The tapered shape increases the frictional force between the seating surface 56 and valve body portion 68, thereby providing improved resistance to air leakage into the vessel. A retainer flange 63, which extends radially outward from shaft portion 67, is disposed proximate to the upper operator portion 66. The outside diameter of the retainer flange 60 is smaller than the diameter of the opening 61 in sleeve portion 58 but greater than the diameter of the opening in upper flange portion 60 such that the retainer flange 63 engages shoulder 69 to prevent complete withdrawal of the valve 65 from the inner frame 42.
  • [0041]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a valve assembly in accordance with another exemplary embodiment the present invention. The valve assembly may comprise a frame 70, cover 72, biasing means 74, and valve 86. Alternately, the valve assembly may be comprised of a single frame instead of a cover and a frame. The biasing means may be a tension or compression helical coil, a leaf spring, a compressible material or other biasing means which ate well known in the art. The one-piece, integral frame 70 may be composed of a resilient material, such as resin, silicon, or the like. The frame 70 may comprise a cylindrical sleeve portion 76 having bole 79 and a valve seat assembly 78. The sleeve portion 76 is inserted within the opening 32 and through the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10, and has an outside diameter that is less than the inside diameter of the sleeve 33. A number of thin sealing ridges 71 extend circumferentially around and laterally outwardly from the outer surface of the sleeve portion 76. The ridges 71 each have an outside diameter which is slightly greater than the inside diameter of the sleeve 33. Thus, the ridges 71 are resiliently compressed when the sleeve portion 76 is inserted into the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10, thereby forming an airtight and fluid-tight seal between the sleeve portion 76 and the sleeve 33.
  • [0042]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, the valve seat portion 78 of the frame 70 extends longitudinally upward and laterally outward from the sleeve portion 76 to define a flange 77. The lower edge 75 of the flange 77 acts as an index, abutting the upper edge of the sleeve 33 when the sleeve portion 76 is properly positioned within the sleeve 33 of the stopper 10. A number of thin sealing ridges 73 extend circumferentially around and laterally outward from the outer surface of the valve seat portion 78. The ridges 73 each have an outside diameter which is slightly greater than the inside diameter of the outer sleeve of a vacuum pump. Thus, the ridges 73 are resiliently compressed when the outer sleeve of a vacuum pump engages valve seat portion 78. The lower past of the valve seat portion 78 may extend radially inward to form an axial orifice 80, which partially closes bore 79. The valve seat portion 78 may also comprise a flange 81 extending radially inward and defining a circumferential groove 82 in a perimeter of a cavity 83.
  • [0043]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, a rigid, one-piece, integral, valve 86 extends through an orifice 85 of the valve cover 72 and biasing means 74. Alternately, valve 86 may be operably connected to biasing means 74. The valve 86 and cover 72 may be formed of a rigid material such as ABS, or other type of, thermoformed plastic. The biasing means 74 may be formed of metal, plastic or the like. The valve 86 has an upper operator portion 87 connected to a lower valve portion 89 by a longitudinally extending shaft 88. The valve shaft 88 passes through the biasing means 74, whereby the biasing means 74 is compressed between the edge of the orifice 85 and the lower valve portion 89. In one embodiment, the biasing means 74 may be thermally fused to the lower valve portion 89 using methods known to those of skill in the art. The operator portion 87 is knob-shaped to facilitate gripping by a user's hand. The outside diameter of the operator portion 87 may be greater than the diameter of the orifice 85 such that the operator portion 87 may not be pushed or pulled through the orifice 85.
  • [0044]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, the frame 70 may be sufficiently elastic so that it can be stretched to allow a flange 84 of the cover 72 to be inserted into groove 82 of the frame 70 and be held in place by flange 81 to form the valve assembly. When the cover 72 is inserted into the frame 70, the force of the biasing means 74 will work against the lower valve portion 89 and thus bring it into abutting contact with the lower potion of the valve seat assembly 78, thereby airtight and fluid-tight sealing the orifice 80. During pumping, however, the air inside the vessel pushes on the lower valve portion 89 with sufficient force to overcome the force of the biasing means 74 and allow air to flow out of the vessel through the orifice 85 into the atmosphere. When the pumping action stops, the valve 86 is drawn into its original sealing position by the operation of the biasing means 74 and the vacuum pressure within the vessel.
  • [0045]
    In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, the stopper 10 may comprise a pressure indicator operable to sense and display in a human-readable format the level of vacuum pressure within the stoppered decanter. The pressure indicator may comprise any vacuum pressure-measuring device, such as a pressure gauge, pressure sensor, or the like. In some embodiments of the present invention, the pressure indicator may comprise a mechanical pressure sensor, such as a bourdon tube pressure gauge, diaphragm element pressure gauge, capsule element pressure gauge, absolute pressure gauge, differential pressure gauge, or the like. In another embodiment, the pressure indicator may comprise an electronic (or digital) pressure sensor, such as a thermocouple gauge, Penning gauge, thermistor gauge or the like.
  • [0046]
    FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary embodiment of a pressure indicator in accordance with the present invention. An exemplary pressure indicator comprises a mechanical pressure sensor 90 operable to sense vacuum pressure within the vessel and to display the sensed vacuum pressure in a human-readable format. The pressure sensor 90 is disposed within the sleeve 35 of the upper portion of the stopper 10. The pressure sensor 90 may comprise a sealing sleeve 91, a cylindrical frame 92, an inner T-shaped frame 93, a piston 94, a biasing means 95, a card face 96, a cover 97, and a gear train 98. The biasing means may be a tension or compression helical coil, a leaf spring, a compressible material or other biasing means which are well known in the art. Those of skill in the art may recognize that various other elements and configuration of mechanical and electronic elements may be used in connection with the pressure sensor 90 to sense and display vacuum pressure within the vessel in accordance with various embodiments.
  • [0047]
    In one embodiment, the cylindrical sealing sleeve 91 may be formed of resilient material, such as resin, silicon, or the like, and disposed around the cylindrical frame 92 to provide an airtight and fluid-tight seal between the sleeve 34 and the frame 92 when the pressure sensor 90 is inserted into the sleeve 34 of the upper portion 12 of the stopper 10. The lower portion of the seating sleeve 91 may extend radially inward to form an orifice 99. The upper portion of the sealing member may comprise a flange 101 extending radially outward to engage in an airtight manner the lower edge of a radial flange 102 of the frame 92. The upper edge of the flange 102 may engage in an airtight manner the cover 97, which may be formed of rigid and transparent material, such as glass, Plexiglas, plastic or the like.
  • [0048]
    The cylindrical frame 92 may be formed of a rigid material, such as plastic. The cylindrical frame 92 may define a chamber 103. The lower portion of the cylindrical frame 92 may extend radially inward to define an orifice 104 having diameter smaller than the diameter of the chamber 103. The biasing means 95 may be disposed within the chamber 103 to abut the edge of the orifice 104. The piston 94 may comprise a cylindrical shaft having a bore therein. The shaft of the piston 94 extends through the chamber 103, biasing means 95, orifice 104, and orifice 99. The piston 94 may further comprise a plug 106 that may be inserted at the bottom into the bore of the piston 94 to seal in an airtight manner the orifice 99 and a bore of the piston 94. The piston 94 may also comprise a flange 105 extending radially outward for engaging the biasing means 95. In one embodiment, the biasing means 95 may be thermally fused at one end with the flange 105 of the piston 94 and at the other end with the bottom portion of the frame 92 to form a pressure sensor, operation of which will be described in more detail below. The T-shaped frame 93 may extend through the piston 94. The upper, horizontal portion of the T-shaped frame 93 may support an indicator needle 107 and comprise a card face 96 inscribed with the pressure indication scale, such as centimeters of mercury vacuum (cmHg), associated with particular needle deflections. The card face may also be inscribed with indicia to indicate the amount of vacuum pressure within the vessel. Alternatively, a color code indicating that sufficient vacuum pressure has been achieved may be used. For example, one or more colors may be used to indicate too little vacuum pressure within the vessel. A different color(s) may be used to indicate that sufficient vacuum pressure has been achieved within the vessel. A different color(s) may also be used to indicate too much vacuum pressure within the vessel. A link of the gear train 98 may be used to connect piston 94 with the T-shaped frame 93 and the indicator needle 107 in a manner known to those of skill in the art, and which therefore is not described here in detail.
  • [0049]
    The above-described vacuum pressure sensor operates as follows. As the air is withdrawn from the vessel to the external atmosphere through the valve assembly 16, a vacuum is drawn inside the vessel and the vacuum pressure increases inside the vessel. This vacuum pressure is exerted on the plug 106 of the piston 94 and lower portion of the sealing sleeve 91 of the pressure sensor 90 so that the piston 94 and the sleeve 91 are being pulled into the vessel. Once the vacuum pressure exceeds the force of the biasing means 95 disposed within the pressure sensor 90, the piston 94 will start moving downward into the vessel. The downward motion of the piston 94 may be transferred from a vertical plane into the horizontal plane through a link or gear train 98 to the T-shaped frame 93 and the indicator needle 107 of the pressure sensor 90, which in turn will move along the inscribed scale on the card face 96 and indicates vacuum pressure within the vessel.
  • [0050]
    With reference to FIG. 6 a and FIG. 6 b, a separate pump 120 may be used in connection with the stopper of the present invention to withdraw the air from the vessel 110 and to draw the vacuum therein. In FIG. 6 a the vessel 110 is shown to be a decanter and the stopper 10 is shown to be a decanter stopper whereas in FIG. 6 b the vessel 100 is shown to be a wine bottle and the stopper 10 is shown to be a wine bottle stopper. In one embodiment, the pump 120 may comprise a pump sleeve 122 with cylindrical chamber 132 having a piston 128 and a chamber 130 disposed therein. A pipe-shaped piston rod 124 extends from the piston 128 to a handle 126. A check valve, such as a mushroom-shaped non-return valve (not shown), may be mounted in an opening (not shown) in the piston 128 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The pump sleeve 122 is configured to engage the upper frame portion of valve 16, which protrudes from the upper portion of the stopper 10. The piston 128 may be manually or electrically actuated to withdraw the air through the valve assembly 16 from the vessel 110 and thus to draw vacuum therein. When the piston rod 124 and piston 128 move upwards, the check valve prevents flow through the opening in the piston 128, thereby extracting air into chamber 130 from the vessel via valve 16. When the piston 128 is subsequently moved downwards, the air passes from chamber 130 through the opening in the piston 128 and exhausts through an opening 134 in the upper portion of the pump sleeve 122.
  • [0051]
    In one embodiment of the present invention, the vessel 110 may comprise any type of vessel capable of holding a fluid therein. The vessel 110 may be manufactured using standard manufacturing processes known to those of skill in the art. In one embodiment, the vessel 110 may be manufactured from various rigid and preferably transparent materials such as glass, Plexiglas, plastic, ABS or the like. The thickness of the walls of the vessel 110 should be sufficient to withstand vacuum pressures lower than the external atmospheric pressure. Total vacuum is defined as a vacuum pressure of 72 cmHg. Typically, the maximum vacuum pressure that can be created by a manual vacuum pump is only 55 cmHg. In one embodiment, the thickness of the vessel walls may range from 2-7 mm to withstand vacuum pressures from at least about 50 cmHg up to about 71 cmHg. In another embodiment of the invention, the vessel walls ate designed to withstand a vacuum pressure of at least approximately 55 cmHg. Those of skill in the art may recognize that the vessel's pressure resistance may depend on the type of the material from which the vessel is manufactured and the thickness of the vessel walls.
  • [0052]
    The operation of the wine preserving system of the present invention will be described next with reference to FIG. 7 as Well as FIGS. 2 a, 2 b, 3, 5, 6 a and 6 b. FIGS. 6 a and 6 b show a cross-section view of a partially filled vessel 110 into which the stopper 10 has been inserted and a cross-section view of pump 120 positioned on the stopper 10. In operation, the stopper 10 is inserted into the neck 114 of the vessel 110, preferably until the lower surface 21 of ledge 20 of stopper 10 (see FIGS. 2 a and 2 b) sits on the lip 116 of the vessel mouth 112. The flexible ridges of the lower portion of the stopper come into the sealing contact with the throat 114 of the vessel 110 to airtight seal it, step 710. Then, the sealing end of sleeve 122 of the pump 120 may be installed on the stopper 10, preferably with the sealing end of sleeve 122 pressing against and sealing to upper surface 27 of ledge 26 of the valve 16. Although it is not necessary the sealing end of sleeve 122 of the pump 120 may also press against the inner surface 28 of the valve 16 to provide a stronger seal with the valve 16.
  • [0053]
    With reference to FIG. 3, during the suction stroke of the pump 120, air inside the vessel 110 pushes the valve 65 upward, unseating valve body portion 68 from the orifice 54, and establishing an air path through the stopper 10, step 720. The air flows through the orifice 54 and out of the stopper 10 via the stepped opening 61 of the inner frame 42. When the pumping action stops, the vacuum in the vessel draws the valve 65 downward to engage the valve body portion 68 within orifice 54, thereby sealing the air passage, step 730. The pressure differential across the valve 65 will further urge the valve 65 downward, thereby pushing the flexible lower flange portion 48 of the outer body 40 down towards the inside of the vessel 110. To remove the stopper 10, the vacuum may be released by grasping operator portion 66 of the valve and pulling the valve 65 upward, thereby unseating the valve body portion 68 from orifice 54.
  • [0054]
    With reference to FIG. 5, the vacuum in the vessel 110 acts on the plug 106 of the piston 94 and lower portion of the sealing sleeve 91 of the pressure sensor 90 so that the piston 94 and the sleeve 91 are being pulled into the vessel 110 due to the vacuum pressure. Once the vacuum pressure exceeds the force of the biasing means 95 disposed within the pressure sensor 90, the piston 94 will start moving downward into the vessel 110, thereby sensing vacuum pressure within the vessel 110, step 740. The downward motion of the piston 94 is transferred through gear train 98 to the indicator needle 107 of the pressure sensor 90, which in turn will move along the inscribed scale on the card face 96 and indicate vacuum pressure within the vessel 110, step 750. Once the desired vacuum pressure is achieved within the vessel 110, the pumping may subside, thereby preserving the wine in the vessel 110 in the substantially air free atmosphere, i e., vacuum.
  • [0055]
    Again with reference to FIGS. 3 and 5, should the airtight seal between the valve body portion 68 and orifice 54 leak, or should the vessel depressurize in any other way, the vacuum pressure within the vessel 110 will begin dropping. This vacuum pressure drop will be detected by the pressure sensor 90, step 760. The indicator needle 107 of the pressure sensor 90 will move to indicate the drop in vacuum pressure, step 770. Once such a drop in the pressure has been observed, the user may again utilize pump 120 to withdraw the excess air from the vessel 110 thereby bringing vacuum level within the vessel 110 to the desired level and reestablishing an airtight seal between valve body portion 68 and orifice 54 of the valve assembly 16. This process may be periodically repeated thereby ensuring that the unconsumed wine stored in the vessel 110 is preserved without oxidation or other chemical reactions until it is completely consumed.
  • [0056]
    In the foregoing specification, the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments thereof. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.
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Referenced by
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US7743796 *Nov 15, 2007Jun 29, 2010Schooley Bruce ABottle neck vacuum pump
US7837769 *Nov 4, 2008Nov 23, 2010Rhone Daniel LahrMethod and apparatus for degassing fluid in enclosed containers
US8640746 *Jul 30, 2010Feb 4, 2014Armando LuisHigh flow stopper with vacuum and date indicators
US8919610Mar 15, 2013Dec 30, 2014Vinum CorporationVacuum bottle stopper for wine and method
US9296467 *Jun 9, 2009Mar 29, 2016The Boeing CompanyPressure test door for use with a fuel tank
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US20110126939 *Jul 30, 2010Jun 2, 2011Armando LuisHigh flow stopper with vacuum and date indicators
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US20140360971 *Jun 7, 2013Dec 11, 2014Paul Anthony MarinoPressure-Indicating Reusable Stopper for Sparkling Beverages
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EP2459462A4 *Jul 30, 2010Sep 4, 2013Armando LuisHigh flow stopper with vacuum and date indicators
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Classifications
U.S. Classification141/95
International ClassificationB65B1/30
Cooperative ClassificationB65D81/2038
European ClassificationB65D81/20B3