Research

Collapsing Soap Bubbles

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The colors of a soap film are directly related to their thickness. If a film becomes thin enough (~10 nanometers), it appears black. (Here’s why.) This video shows the thinning of a vertical soap film. Normally, this is a linear process, with gravity pulling the fluid downward and progressively thinning the film from top to bottom at a constant rate. At 0:20 a cold rod slowly contacts the film, adding a thermal driver for the film’s thinning. Two large counter-rotating convection cells form underneath the rod, with weaker secondary vortices in the lower corners of the film. This drastically increases mixing in the film. Gradually small black spots, indicating very thin areas of the film, form and advect. Eventually these spots stretch, forming long tails. The thinning of the film kicks up to an exponential rate until the film becomes uniformly thin. (Video credit: M. Winkler et al.)

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