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Researchers Have Created Bubbles That Can Last for More Than a Year

Researchers Have Created Bubbles That Can Last for More Than a Year

No matter how quickly they burst, blowing soap bubbles will always delight one's, inner child. If you despise having your bubbles burst, you'll appreciate these "everlasting" bubbles.

Soap bubbles naturally form a sphere and, due to gravity, the liquid in a soap bubble sinks to the bottom, leaving a thin film on top that can easily rupture. Furthermore, evaporation depletes the strength of bubbles, and therefore typical soap bubbles last no more than a minute in the open air.

But recently, researchers from the University of Lille discovered a way to keep a bubble from bursting for more than a year. Researchers published their findings in the journal Physical Review Fluids, detailing how they extended the "fragile and ephemeral" life span of a single bubble to a mind-boggling 465 days.

The viscosity of its fluid determines the physics of a bubble. When a bubble on the water's surface is poked and popped, surface tension causes the bubble to retract quickly and violently, disappearing in about a millisecond. However, in a very viscous liquid, a surface bubble can take up to a full second to collapse. This allows researchers to spend more time observing a complex interplay of forces, which is ideal for studying the fundamental physics at work in bubble collapse.

Unlike soap bubbles, the new bubbles can last for more than a year before popping, according to the researchers.

The bubbles are made of water, microparticles of plastic, and a viscous, clear liquid called glycerol rather than soap and water. The combination of ingredients prevents factors that usually deflate bubbles from occurring.

The plastic particles cling to the water with this new bubble formula, forming an evenly thick layer around the structure. Simultaneously, the glycerol particles absorb moisture from the air, assisting in evaporation resistance and stabilizing the structure.

According to physicist Michael Baudoin of the Université de Lille in France, "When we discovered that the bubble didn't rupture after days, we were really astonished." So he and his colleagues sat back and waited to see how long the bubbles would last. And waited some more. One bubble lasted 465 days before bursting, making it the longest-lasting bubble created under normal atmospheric conditions. That bubble turned slightly green before it burst, which could be a hint as to what caused it to pop finally. The team suspects that microbes took up residence, weakening the bubble's structure.

According to Leif Ristroph, a New York University professor who wasn't involved in the study, anti-evaporation technology could be helpful in medicine. "I'm daydreaming here," he told NBC, "but I could imagine it might be useful to 'armor' little droplets in aerosols and sprays to make them last longer in air…For example, some sort of medicine that's administered by spraying and breathing in the aerosol."

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