Research

Making Giant Soap Bubbles

Making soap bubbles is fun, but there’s something about gigantic soap bubbles that brings out the child in everyone. The world’s largest freestanding soap bubble had more than 100 square meters of surface area, which begs an important question: how can such a thin film stay stable at that size?

The solutions used for giant bubbles have a few main ingredients: water, naturally; detergent, used for its surfactants; and polymers like polyethylene glycol that help stabilize the soap film. Exactly why polymers helped was a bit of mystery, but a new pre-print study aims to answer that.

Researchers studied how polymer concentrations affected 1) how much solution could be drawn in as bubbles formed, and 2) how long a film of solution lasted before gravity and evaporation thinned it to breaking. They found that intermediate polymer concentrations actually worked best. This gave the solution the viscoelasticity needed to draw in more solution as bubbles grew without having so much polymer that it negatively affected film lifetime. (Image credit: Pixabay; research credit: S. Frazier et al.; via MIT Tech Review; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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