When bubbles burst, they release smaller droplets from the jet that rebounds upward. Depending on their size, these droplets can fall back down or get lofted upward on air currents that spread them far and wide. Thus, knowing what kind of bubbles produce small, fast droplets is important for understanding air pollution, climate, and even disease transmission.
In a recent study, researchers compared droplets made by clean, water-only bubbles, and the ones generated from water bubbles with a thin layer of oil coating them. The clean bubbles created jets that were broad and relatively slow moving; this motion produced a few large drops that quickly fell back down.
In contrast, the oil-slicked bubbles made a narrow, fast-moving jet that broke into many small droplets. These droplets could stay aloft for longer periods, indicating that contaminated water can produce more aerosols than clean. (Image credit: top – J. Graj, bursting – Z. Yang et al.; research credit: Z. Yang et al.; submitted by Jie F.)