Research

Listening to a Bubble’s Pop

A bubble pops.

Sound is an important aspect of many flows, from the scream of a rocket engine to the hum of electrical wires vibrating in the wind. Critically, those sounds carry important information about the flow. A new study extends these acoustic diagnostics to the popping of soap bubbles.

When a hole opens in a soap bubble, it throws the surface-tension-driven capillary forces of the bubble into disarray. The rim around the hole retracts, pushing fluid away from the expanding hole. At the same time, air is pushed out of the collapsing bubble. Using microphone arrays, the researchers found they could measure and distinguish sound from both sources — the escaping air and the expanding hole.

From the sound, they developed a model that predicts the rupture location, bubble thickness profile, and other properties of the bubble. They confirmed the model’s results by comparing with high-speed photography. The authors hope their new acoustic technique will shed light on bubble bursting events that are hard to observe visually, like the bubbling of magma. (Image and research credit: A. Bussonnière et al.; via Science News; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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