About bubbles - part 1 - how do bubbles work?

04/01/2021

What if the bubbles keep bursting? How does a bubble blower actually work? These are questions that each one of us has asked ourselves. Whether it was as a small child in the bathtub, in the role of a parent trying to satisfy a child longing for bubbles, or even as a person who is simply interested. I asked myself questions about bubbles in all of those situations. Even a bubble artist asks questions about bubbles over and over again. In this article, you will learn how bubbles work.

"And to me also, who appreciate life, the butterflies, and soap-bubbles, and whatever is like them amongst us, seem most to enjoy happiness." 

Fridrich Nietzsche

HOW DO BUBBLES AND BUBBLE BLOWERS WORK?

Bubbles are extremely important in life. For example, bubbles in the ocean bring nutrients to the water, playing a role in condensing vapours that lead to rain. Even in the human body, bubbles are important. But this article is not about that otherwise we would be here for a long time. I will focus on "soap bubbles". The simple, round and colourful things that children adore and adults admire.


Soap bubbles are formed due to surface tension and air - a stream of air that fills a bubble film (a thin membrane of liquid). The airflow tensions the membrane, which gradually fills, creating a long "snake". At that moment, a stream of air (from the inside) acts on the liquid membrane, but also the pressure from the outside of the bubble. The bubble then separates and a single bubble is formed.


Imagine you have 51 people and you're standing holding hands. I tell you to make a square. How long will it take you? How long will it take you to make a triangle? But if I told you to form a circle, you would immediately stretch out your arms and form a huge circle in a matter of seconds. The bubble tries to achieve the simplest and most perfect shape with the least effort - with the lowest energy consumption. That's why every bubble is round, spherical. However, ambient air pressure, wind, drafts, temperature and other conditions deform the shape in various ways. But the bubble does not give up and presses to be round again.


The colour of the bubbles depends on two factors. The first factor is light. Just like when it rains and the sun shines and a rainbow is formed. We also find this phenomenon in bubbles. The light refracts against the bubble wall and we see the basic colours. But why does the colour change at different times and in different places? The colour depends on the thickness of the bubble wall. This changes over time due to gravity, as the bubble liquid slowly flows down. Thus, different wall thickness means different colours. It is absolutely fascinating that a bubble wall is 100-1000 nanometers thin. When the wall is "too thick", i.e. exceeding the thickness of 1000nm, the bubble is greyed out, dull and discoloured. Do you know how thick it is? Compared to a single human hair: a hair has a thickness of 40,000 - 60,000 nanometers. So the bubble wall is about 50 times thinner than a hair.


So why do you think the bubble bursts? There are several reasons for this. The bubble most often bursts because it evaporates. It's just too thin. This is partly because the liquid slowly flows down due to the force of gravity and the bubble is very very thin at the top. The second reason is wall damage. The bubble is hit by an object or dirt in the air, which changes the surface tension and causes the bubble to burst. Very simply put, dry things burst bubbles. You can try it with a wet hand, you will see that you can catch the bubble. But just a small dry place and the bubble bursts. The bubbles thrive in a humid environment, for example in a bathtub. But you can make beautiful bubbles in the fog, after the rain, or even directly in the rain, for example.


A bubble blower is basically a simple toy. You create a loop, which you immerse in the bubble liquid, thus creating a bubble membrane in the loop. When you blow into it, the membrane absorbs air and creates a bubble. Blowing is necessary for the membrane to inflate and it does not burst with a strong gust of wind. The diameter of the loop is proportional to the size of the bubble. This means that the larger the loop (blower), the larger the bubble. You can read about making the best big bubbles here.


Bubble artist Daniel



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